Most folks don’t consider visiting a cemetery on their garden travels. That is, unless you are a lover of old roses.
I recently visited Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery as the local Rose Society seeks to preserve the historic rose collection found there. The roses form a collection from old homesteads and cemeteries dating back to the Gold Rush.
Roses were often planted in cemeteries of pioneering families all across the United States as they migrated across the country, making cemeteries a source of many roses lost to cultivation, as hybrid roses began to dominate commerce by the 19th century.
Roses are deep rooted tough survivors, especially old antique roses that have direct lineage to species roses. Often a special rose was brought by settlers from the old country and planted in family cemeteries that outlasted the homestead. Rose rustling has become pastime of heirloom rose aficionados, searching for and rescuing lost roses. Hard on the Trail of Forgotten Roses 1994 New York Times article by Ann Raver.
In California and the West rose rustling reveals particularly tough survivors and such groups as the Texas Rose Rustlers carry on the tradition of finding lost roses. In Sacramento, the Cemetery Rose group coordinates the work of preserving California rose history and keeps up the rose garden at Old City Cemetery.
Roses that can’t be identified are mystery roses, known only from where they were collected. Such as, ‘Ferndale Red China’ collected near the town of Ferndale, California.
Or the whimsical ‘Car Wash’:
Collected or rescued, yes, near a car wash in Califonia Mother Lode that was about to be demolished for new development.
Anywhere you find an old cemetery you may discover a bit of lost horticultural history, and ideas about what sustainable gardening might be about.
The Heritage Rose Foundation Conference is held this year at The Huntington Botanic Garden in Los Angeles Sept 30 to Oct 2 and Anita Clevenger of the Sacramento Historic Rose Garden will speak about finding historic roses.
A gallery of these roses is found on my PhotoBotanic Archive: Sacramento Cemetery Roses.