Thursday, May 28, 2009

A rose "comes-a-calling"

One of the joys of my job is bringing new roses to our customers. Usually this involves travels to Europe, a few dinners, touring endless acres of rose gardens, a few more dinners and then decisions over nice glasses of wine. Tough work but someone has to do it! Sometimes however a great rose finds me right in my own backyard; in my case the nursery. Such was the case with a Kordes rose.

The nursery firm of Wilhelm Kordes & Sonne has been breeding roses a long time and are very good at hardy disease resistant varieties like Brother's Grimm (at left).

Quite a few years ago Germany (Where Kordes resides) began limiting and even banning the use of chemicals by the Ornamental Horticultural Industry. Wilhelm Kordes then banned them from his test fields - a move considered very risky by many but it makes him a hero to me. Keep in mind we are going back fifteen - twenty years, which was the the heyday of the fussy, spray a lot, cut flower Hybrid Tea.

I knew about Kordes Roses for years of course. Great classics like Dortmund that were as easy to grow as any roses I'd ever seen.

It was during a stint in The Netherlands judging the rose trials, that I finally had a chance to see so many of the new ones we didn't seem to have over here. Aprikola, Sterntaler (lower left -called Golden Fairy Tale in the U.S.) and Sangerhausen Jubilaumsrose (upper right -Floral Fairy Tale here) were just a few of the great roses I saw.

After the celebration dinner I approached Wilhelm Kordes, introduced myself as a fan of his roses and a nursery owner and asked if we could carry his roses in the United States. He took my card and much to my delight about a month later I got a letter saying yes, they were interested in licensing us to carry their roses including many of the new ones. They even agreed to send Mother Plants from Germany!

We've slowly been introducing them over the past few years and this season is our big push. One of my new favs is Cubana (lower right). I came upon this little gem last summer when I was wandering through the gardens. Or rather, it came upon me.

Unfortunately due to our financial situation I had not been able to hire the normal summer help to keep the beds weeded so they were pretty overgrown. Trish's sons would periodically go through with a weed-eater to cut the worst down but this particular bed was overdue.

Popping up above the Bermuda grass saying "here I am, pick me, pick me" was the bloom spray of Cubana that you see in the picture. I pulled back the weeds and saw the foliage was lush and dark green all the way to the base of the plant. I grabbed my secaturs, took some propagation material and we introduced it this past spring.

I love finding, testing and introducing new roses to our customers. And it's also a lot of fun when a great rose like Cubana finds me.

I might let the weeds grow up a bit this year as well to see what else comes-a-calling.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our re-birth has begun

Part of what makes us, well us, in my opinion is that we offer roses hard to fine elsewhere. They may be old, they may be new - but many are unique. Quite a few of the newer ones are roses I found in Europe and brought back to introduce to our U.S. Rose Family. This is not something I take lightly and consider an obligation to them.

As well a great excuse to get over to Europe!

At least that's how it was before the problems began.

Last week we began our first baby step back to the past. We went to a dear friend's house who generously opened her garden to us so we could take cuttings of old and new rose friends to propagate for our customers. Michael, Trish, Myself and some of the Red Clay Day Gang propagated them and they are now in the mister.

Then today I set out upon Kubbie, Jethro's smaller brother, towing the small trailer. Loaded up with burlap for wrapping cuttings, buckets of water for putting the cuttings into, clippers, lists of roses to take cuttings of, my camera and another list of roses to take photos of, I set out on the grand tour of the old property.

I roamed all over the place taking cuttings of this and that - some old, some new. Took photos of roses I haven't visited with in a while, smelled the newly cut grass and just enjoyed the day.

About half way through my sojourn I rounded the corner and there were about 30 varieties of roses bred by the Barni Family in Italy. Beatrice sent them to me about 3 years ago and I have not had a chance to do anything with them since. Beatrice understood why, bless her heart.

They are in full bloom, healthy, clean and lovely. Very few of them are available in the U.S. at this moment. Tomorrow I'm going back to take photos, cuttings and another baby step along the path of our re-birth.

Barni Roses - coming soon to an Ashdown website near you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

God's Little Flower

We have been involved with a project called The Grayson Rose for last few months. It came about from a tragedy when two friends who are part of Pam's radio station family lost their daughter Grayson before she was born.

Pam approached me with the idea of naming a rose after her and using part of the proceeds for charity to help others with what they had been through. The idea was to couple helping a friend with helping others as well. Matt and Amy Harris embraced the idea and that is how The Grayson Rose came into this world.

I have never had children, nor lost a child so I am not going to say something stupid like I know what they went through. But I do know this; roses have an amazing power to heal that for reasons I don't want to understand just are. This I have known my entire career with them.

I only hope Matt and Amy find some comfort in knowing their daughter lives on in The Grayson Rose. Matt tells me so and I completely believe him. Matt is a very funny guy with a warm heart but he is not a BS artist.

We have sold close to 1000 Grayson Roses, raising close to $7000 to help the March of Dimes work with premature children, so hopefully someone else may be spared what they went through. But above that the messages that come into the nursery as The Grayson Rose is gifted to others tell me that many are finding solace in Matt and Amy's brave decision to go public with this. If indeed a tragedy shared is a problem halved then in this case a tragedy divided by a thousand gives comfort to so many.

Yet Grayson's gift goes beyond even something Matt and Amy don't know. In these economic times all small business are facing challenges. But for us, thanks to The Grayson Rose and the warmth, generosity, love and support of all of Matt and Ramona's listeners, the economic challenges facing Ashdown are far less than one month ago.

We gladly donated 40% of the proceeds of The Grayson Rose to charity. But what God's Little Flower donated back to us is immeasurable.

Thank you Grayson.