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.


  1. This amazing Lee. All I can say is WOW!

  2. Lee, I blogged about your blog. Isn't that what fellow "meisters" are for. I also don't think we talked about a spring order yet.

  3. Andrew, my Mohonk Meister Freund- let's talk about that order. Thanks for blogging about my blog. Der Rosy

  4. Makes me want to read about Roses!!! Maybe even plant a few!