Saturday, January 29, 2011

Good Reads on a Wintry Day

While I spend quite a bit of time online reading about roses, I always return to my books, or magazines. I have an embarrassing number of them. There is a pile on my nightstand spilling on to the floor for ready reference. And there is a book case devoted to roses. Just for the hell of it, I just counted the number of rose books there- over 150, and that does not include the annuals, magazines, or catalogs. I have every volume of The American Rose Annual from 1916 to 1990.

The first rose book I ever read was Peter Malins' Rose Book. It was relatively new then and was one of the few books available that had information on old roses. It was the source of my first wish list of roses I wanted to grow. I was lucky enough to pick up the exact copy that I had read back in the early 80s at the Friends of the Library Book Sale. It had been discarded by the Tompkins Public Library. While there are many books that are better, this one holds a special place in my heart.

I have countless encyclopedias of roses. The one I refer to most often is Botanica’s Roses. It covers over 4,000 varieties and provides good information on each. The next one I look at is The American Rose Society Encyclopedia of Roses by Charles and Brigid Quest-Ritson . While it covers only about half the cultivars as does Botanica’s Roses, it does so with a critical eye.

Sometimes, I need more in depth information than either of these encyclopedias provide. When I need information on climbers and ramblers, I immediately grab Climbing Roses of the World, by Charles Quest-Ritson. It is encyclopedic in nature, covering about 1,600 climbers and ramblers. Quest-Ritson applies his critical eye here as well.

While not covering as many varieties, Stephen Scanniello’s Climbing Roses is invaluable in that it is arranged chronologically, has a more in depth look at some climbers and ramblers, and includes his own experience growing these roses in the Cranford Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I also refer to G.A. Stevens’ Climbing Roses. It provides a period look at the climbers and ramblers available up to that time (1933). It has good information about specific varieties that are often forgotten today and great photos.

Once I have decided what rose I “need” to have next in my garden, I turn to Peter Schneider’s Combined Rose List to find sources for that rose. This book is updated annually. For more information see

As for magazines, my favorite is Rosa Mundi, the Journal of the Heritage Rose Foundation. It comes out twice a year. Each issue is like a small book, loaded with information and photos not often found anywhere else. I look forward to every issue and refer to past issues regularly. Luckily, the Rose Hybridizers Association Newsletter comes out quarterly. It is a little known gem. When I retire from teaching and have more time, I hope to try my hand at hybridizing roses- cold hardy, disease resistant, fragrant climbers and ramblers. Reading this Newsletter is preparing me for that time and whetting my appetite.

In a future blog, I will talk about some other categories of rose books I treasure.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why grow roses?

Hi! Welcome to Thorny Issues, the blog of Der Rosenmeister’s Nursery.

I am Lee Ginenthal, owner of Der Rosenmeister, a small, family run specialty nursery in Ithaca, NY offering the best in cold hardy, disease resistant roses and all the information needed to grow them.

Renate Schmitt, my wife, and me, the first year we were in our new location on 190 Seven Mile Drive, Ithaca, NY.

There is not much to do out in the rose garden at this time of year. There are cuttings to tend to under the lights. There is the latest issue of Rosa Mundi, the journal of the Heritage Rose Foundation, to read along with piles of rose books, old and new. Winter provides the luxury of time to reflect on the past year in the rose garden, as well as, to dream about and plan for the coming year. Roses are a large part of my life.

Why do I grow roses?

My initial is response is that roses connect me with special people in my life. My grandmother, Sadie Wheat, loved growing roses. When she died, my mom, Audrey, rooted a cutting of one of Grandma’s favorite roses, a once-blooming rambler, Dr. W. Van Fleet. This was the first rose I grew. It was while trying to identify it that I got hooked on old roses. I cannot see or smell that rose without thinking of my grandmother or my mom.

What is the first thing you do when you see a rose? Smell it, right? Well, scent is another reason I grow roses. The scent of a rose is as complex as the flavor of a good wine. Each variety has its own distinctive blend of scents. More about that in a future blog. Whether I am just walking through my roses or working in the rose beds, I am compelled to sniff and savor the scents they offer. That simple act impacts my thoughts and feelings.

Another reason to grow roses is the color of the blossoms. Roses come in a wide range of colors except for blue. Some varieties are blends of colors, while others are picoteed, striped or mottled or freckled. What is my favorite color rose? Well, that depends on what is in bloom at the moment.

Another reason I grow roses has to do with their history and stories. On my hillside here in the Fingerlakes of NY, I have roses grown by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, roses grown in Europe in the Middle Ages in cloistered gardens, roses grown by the Empress Josephine in her garden at Malmaison, roses from many countries throughout the northern hemisphere. I have over 300 varieties at last count. Some roses are named after people –famous and infamous- historic as well as literary. Like people, every rose has a story.

Why do I grow roses? They bring me joy. I love to share my roses and this passion with others.

Why do you grow roses? Please feel free to tell your story.