My love affair with roses began at Arley Hall, so I guess you could say that Lady Elizabeth Ashbrook was my matchmaker. She curated such a wonderful collection of roses, most of them old-fashioned varieties. She was truly an inspiration to me.
One of the many things I find fascinating about roses is their heritage—it's so interesting to me to look at the evolution of this most-famous flower, particularly how American roses have evolved. The first American class of roses was the Noisettes, bred in Charleston during the early 19th century. And it just so happens that my passion for roses also introduced me to one of my dearest friends, rosarian Ruth Knopf. Also of Charleston, she and I share a particular affinity for the Noisettes.
Now, fast forward to 2000 when another breakthrough rose was about to be introduced to America—The Knock Out® Rose. It was created by William Radler to be disease resistant, cold hardy, heat tolerant and incredibly floriferous. And indeed it is—along with the six other varieties that have since been introduced— as it produces a bevy of blooms every five weeks or so from spring until the first frost.
So what do Noisette roses and The Knock Out® Family of Roses have in common? Well for one thing, they're all going to be showcased in the new rose garden we've installed at the Garden Home Retreat. The Knock Out® Family of Roses will be planted in multiples, with like colors and varieties being grouped together for what I think will be an absolute visual treat.
I'm looking forward to when we officially open the rose garden on Saturday May 14 at the Tale of Two Farms Herb & Roses Festival. Peggy Cornett, curator of plants at Monticello, will be on hand for the festivities. She'll also be giving a free lecture at the Clinton School of Public Service at noon on May 13, and the topic is one I'm especially looking forward to—“Historic Roses at Monticello.” I hope to see you there!