Louise Visits European Rose Gardens

By Louise Clements

On July 7, 1994 I joined John in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where we toured the floating flower markets on the canals. For blocks there were boats secured to the walls of the canals offering their wares. Cut flowers of every size and shape or color it seemed where displayed in containers. Exotic or simple. Mix your own bouquet, pick out one already arranged so beautifully in cellophane holders. Take it home to share at the dinner table, give it as a gift or keep it just for your own pleasure. Bicyclists, folks in taxis, youths with backpacks, couples hand in hand, an elderly folks, and business people on their way home from work stopped to purchase flowers. We just walked along, our senses flooded with the wonder of the colors and scents that flowers provide.

From Amsterdam we headed for The Hague, where we spent several hours taking pictures of the vast rose garden which we estimated to be about 40 acres in size. Grassy lawns beckoned around each bend to new vistas of delight. The well kept lawns were the perfect foil for the magnificent beds of multiple plants of each variety of roses. Ponds with ducks and swans drew us beneath the trees waving over them. The garden was full of people on a Sunday outing enjoying the roses just as we were. This is a very famous destination garden and we heard several different languages being spoken. We saw so many roses not available to us in the United States and of course we added many to our wish list. But we also saw many that we do have and had a chance to make comparisons and take notes. We were pleased to see so many of Louis Lens roses. 'White Magic', 'Petit Rat del'Opera', 'Neige Dete', 'Maria Mathilda', which won the 1981 Golden Rose of The Hague. 'Paganini', 'Magie d'Orient', 'Ravel'. Roses from all over Europe are sent here for test trials hoping for coveted awards. Louise's friend, Elena Pizzi, of Italy, who wrote an article for our 1993 catalog is one of the trial judges here. 'Armada' by Harkness looked just as wonderful there as it does in our own garden. McGready's ever popular 'Handel' stood out. The wonderful pillar rose 'Antique' put on a fine display. 'Pink Cloud' one of the most prolific blooming of all roses lived up to its name. I love this one and we will be introducing it soon. Austin's 'Leander' won the Bronze Medal of The Hague' for 1994. It was being grown as a climber. But for grand display nothing topped 'Rosy Cushion' planted on a hillside. There must have been over 70 plants all in full bloom set off by a border of Hidcote Lavender.

A new rose to us was a sport of 'The Fairy' called 'Lovely Fairy' a deep, fuchsia-pink which we saw everywhere in Europe and will be introducing in the future. It is always exciting to see the test beds of roses which as yet do not even have names. How will they perform? What will be their names? What will their future hold? What passions will they stir? We cannot know. We must wait.

In the meawhile we were off to Belgium the lace capital of the world and a little shopping and sight seeing in the very old city of Brugge. Space and topic do not aUow for romantic romps or reminisences about the beautiful European cities we saw. The canals we traveled. The Art Museums (ahh, the Art Museums!). The history. The food. The architecture. The catherdral bells. The evening walks. The pastry shops. The thrill of the challenge of a country where you do not speak the language and have no idea what is around the next corner. But roses are always nearby and familiar.

Only a few miles from Brugge was Louis Lens Nursery now run by Rudy and Ann Valle. Sheep were tied near the edge of the fields munching on weeds. 'Flash' a white Hybrid Musk type and 'Pink Spray' were literally covered with blooms. Wearing his straw hat against the hot summer sun, Rudy enthusiastically showed us through the nursery which he cultivates and maintains with a horse drawn plow. Sheep were tied around the border of the growing fields to help keep the weeds under control. We saw 'Bouquet Parfait' a pink blend Hybrid Musk and 'Neige Dete with huge clusters of small fully double pure white blooms. Lovely plants of 'Rush" which can be used as shrub or climber. 'Silver River' a silver-white ground cover. 'Poesie', double pale pink to white. 'Little Green Snake' a prostrate Ground Cover. 'Sibelius' is more repeating than 'Pucinni'. 'Focus', a small, white, with double blooms and a golden center, was eyecatching. A large bed of 'Kent' a Ground Cover which is very popular in Europe. A huge bed of 'White Magic' fully double, almost quartered, small old-fashioned blooms which repeat blooms and makes a large shrub, 5 - 8 feet. 'Walferdange' named for city in Luxembourg. 3 in. deep pink blooms which repeats is an English type rose. Nice planting of 'Mozart' and 'Petit Rat d'Opera'. 'Revel' may be grown as a climber. It is bright red with a white eye and is repeat blooming. 'Lovely Fairy' deep fuchsia pink to red sport of 'The Fairy'. We saw this one at The Hague. Valle's had a huge bed of them because of the great demand for it in Europe.

Huge beds of potted roses grown for sales at the nursery were separated by cement walkways. We had to leave them all behind. We found many outstanding varieties by Lens yet to come when we visited Louis Lens himself at his home about 50 miles (or was it kilometers?) away. As we approached his tree surrounded home a wooden stork announcing the birth of his new grandchild greeted us. Seeing Louis Lens was a delight. We walked his growing fields with him on a hot and windy day while he talked of his love of roses and hybridizing. Though he says he is finished with his hybridizing it is hard to believe that he is not still dreaming of new roses to create. As is typical of the best hybridizers each section was carefully labeled. He knew immediately when asked what the crosses were of each rose. Many of his roses are named for famous composers. Well educated he speaks four languages: Dutch his native language, French, German and English. A beautiful plant of 'Omni' in his garden caught our eye. Across the lawn Mr. Lens pointed out to us 'Greensnake' in full bloom in the middle of July. 'Little Greensnake' was nearby. Louise identified 'Verdi' in his garden and Mr Lens mentioned that it could be used as a repeating climber. We noticed the deep reddish purple of 'Sibelius' with large clusters of blooms. Rosa swegenzowii showed off a nice display of hips in mid July. 'Cerise Bouquet;' he told us, came from Rosa bra cteata. So many bits of information stored and to be retrieved into conversations. We reluctantly parted his company. What secrets a life time of work and experience can be untapped in the mind of such a man.

Next was Germany. The map was a who's who of rose names; so many roses have been named after cities in Germany it almost felt familiar. We spent a night in the Catherdral city of Aachen for which the lovely rose 'Gruss an Aachen' was named. We headed for Utersen since it was generally on our route and we have the rose 'Rosarium Utersen'. A wrong tum took us past a sign which we readily recognized. "Tauntau Rose Nursery". Dazzled by our good luck we entered the very modem offices and introduced ourselves to

Maaike Evers, the daughter of owner Hans Evers. She spoke perfect English and had even worked in the United States. What's more she had friends in Portland, just 25 miles away from us. She took us on a extended tour of their state-of-the-art-greenhouses. This part of Germany is a very water poor area and all water is handled with great reverence. The methods that they used to recover and recyle water were extremely high tech. Computers control all the recycling and even test the water continually. They sell mainly florists roses wholesale, though they have some shrub roses and others in which we were interested. We returned the following day for a tantalizing tour of the growing fields. Maaike Evers thoughtfully suggested a place for us to spend the night and even called the hotel for us which was only about 5 miles away. The hotel was the Restaurant and Hotel in the Rosarium in Utersen. A serendipitous event! We had aimed our car in the direction of a familiar name with no knowledge of what might actually be there. It tumed out they had only one room left, which we happily took. What a providential wrong turn we had taken.

The lovely, small hotel had vases of fresh roses on every table in the large dining room. And through the windows we caught our first glimpse of the rose garden. It was breathtaking. The awning covered outdoor dining area affords a lovely view of the two lakes and rose beds. Bordering the pathway along the outdoor dining area are numerous tree roses of 'The Fairy'. This seemed to be a very old garden that is nicely maintained with long winding paths through the beds around the two lakes which are habitat for numerous varieties of ducks. If you love roses and a serene setting. Rosarium Utersen is the loveliest place on earth. We were the only tourists there as it is far off the beaten track. Its leisurely paced atmosphere compelled us to relax. The roses in the garden include large colorful beds of modem roses with individual specimen plantings and beds of old garden roses and ramblers surrounding the lakes. Many of the varieties are in our catalog. In addition there were also many rare old varieties. There were hundreds of roses here, some of them found nowhere else in the world to our knowledge. One of the most exciting finds was 'Romanze' by Tantau which we plan on introducing in the future (we subsequently saw it many other places.) It has large semi-double, rose-pink blooms with wavy petals bom in clusters of 6 - 10 in profusion. We enjoyed the magnificent planting of 'Mozart' by Lens in front of the hotel. There was a huge bed of the Ground Cover rose 'Snow on the Heather'. We encourage you to visit.

Sated we left for yet another nursery. We drove north to see the enormous Kordes nursery in Sparrieshoop. We toured their greenhouses and visited their display rose garden where we took even more photographs and video and observed several varieties we should like to offer in the future.

On to Kiel, Germany to a long anticipated meeting with Rolf Seivers, hybridizer of the Blush series of roses (three of which we introduce in this catalog). Rolf Seivers, a gracious man with a passion for roses. Though he spoke little English and we speak no German, communication between lovers of roses seems to breech the barriers of language. Many things going on in his very diverse hybridizing program. He has a wonderfully creative mind which likes a challenge. He is persistent and thorough in record keeping and research. He keeps very concise and complete records and excellent photographs of all his roses in ring binders. He has bred a remontant Moss. He also breeds lilies. His seedlings are planted outdoors and the winters temperatures drop to minus 28 degrees. All roses are winter hardy. He uses Alba's, Kordesii's and Old Garden Roses in his breeding. We toured his greenhouses and test plot barely able to contain our excitement at what he is producing.

Our next stop was Copenhagen, Denmark, to visit Poulsen Roses. We saw beautiful beds of his roses in the Tivioli Gardens. A standout was the white 'Isak Denison' named for the author of Out Of Africa. After Copenhagen we went on to Stockholm, Sweden, to look for very winter-hardy roses. We purchased a wonderful rose book with the hardiness zones of Sweden but as it was in Swedish we can only look at the beautiful pictures.

Only a few highlights. Oh so many memories. Nearly 1800 slides to sort and savor. Trying not to forget a thing.