Visiting Three Corners of the United States: Minnesota, Louisiana, Alaska
By Louise Clements
Sure enough, since printing the last catalog we have been in those three states. In October of '98 I was invited to speak to a group of rosarians in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition to experiencing the wonderful Mid-western hospitality I was there in the fall when they do the "Minnesota Tip" which is not a dance...but a winter protection method for their roses. They find this necessary because of their extremely cold winters. I was taken, by my genial hosts, to the Arboretum at the University of Minnesota where volunteers had gathered with shovels, twine, and gloves to "tip" the roses in that garden. There, surrounded by exquisite golds and reds of fall, they buried the roses in a ritual community effort. The first step is to wrap the rose, leaves and all, with twine so that the whole rose bush is bound in a pyramidal confinement. A length of twine about four feet long is left at the top of the bush. Then a trench is dug from the base of the. rose bush extending out about the same measurement as the height of the rose bush. The depth of the trench is such that the entire bush will be covered by soil when the process is finished. Then the soil at the base of the bush is loosened and the rose bush is gently tipped until it is lying flat in the trench.
The soil is then heaped over the bush taking care to keep the four-foot piece of twine above the soil so that they can locate the bush the next spring; after the time of frost past, they will raise the bush by pulling on the string, loosening the soil around the bush, and setting it upright again. I asked to help with some of the work and found their soil to be wonderfully rich and easy to work with, although I could not come close to the speed with which these experienced volunteers attacked the rose beds. More than one of those volunteers told me how they bury up to one hundred of their own roses all by themselves. Several made a practice of helping each other and a great sense of community has developed around the "Minnesota Tip." The next week the temperature dipped into the twenties.
But by the next week I was in Louisiana where John and I met and the weather was much, much warmer. We wanted to see several gardens in the South. We visited the Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. Although there was only a small formal rose garden there it was lovely in its situation by a beautiful old-fashioned glass house. Bellingrath Gardens is huge and if explored adequately would take more than a day to see it as well as the house with its grand collection of treasures and the carriage house which has now houses a magnificent display of Boehm china pieces. Hodges gardens, in Northwestern Louisiana, with its varied topography and huge lake, offered a serene setting and was every bit as large though it had many more roses. One very beautiful setting was of a rose bed built on a peninsula-like projection into the lake.
We had never seen anything just like it. There were rose beds in tiers and on the top of a hill which overlooked the lake. They have a large gift shop which was air-conditioned and was most welcome.
Actually we were in Louisiana twice. I was invited to speak at the ARS Antique Rose Symposium in April of 1999. On both occasions the roses were in good bloom, and I took rolls and rolls of slides. Summer there, as we understand, is almost a dormant period. Even in April it was so warm that our Northern blood was evident The roses rest while the heat (described by some as "air you wear") settles in with an oppressive slowing effect. The gardeners I spoke to took a rest from gardening also, because it is too hot to work except in the early morning hours. April and November are the best bloom seasons.
In Shreveport we got acquainted with the staff at the American Rose Center where the American Rose Society is located and experienced the great Southern hospitality. We were toured and dined with generosity by the staff. I developed a boundless appetite for Southern cooking and came away with several cook books. Now this has nothing to do with roses, but it was so funny, I just have to tell you. While in Shreveport I had blackened alligator. It was wonderful! I determined to take some home with me. So the night before we left, I ordered the dish in a restaurant and had it packed in ice ready to take it on the plane back to Oregon. Later John spoke to the stewardess, "Could we have some ice for our alligator?" The expression on her face was priceless as she asked incredulously, haltingly, with a touch of cooperate indignity "Do you have an alligator on board this plane?" She was reassured. We laughed heartily.
In July of 1999 we visited Alaska, where the season is short, roses do grow, and in the winter in Skagway the wind chill factor is -150 degrees. The wind blows so hard you have to park your car into the wind or else when you open the door it will blow off (so one local resident told me). Tourism is the major source of income along the coast of Alaska. The population can triple in a day when the crnise ships stop at the docks. Juneau, the capital of Alaska, can be reached only by sea-plane or boat. There are no roads into the city. Barges come in weekly with supplies and goods for the residents. We found one rose growing in front of The Northern Lights Pizza restaurant in Skagway. It was a vigorous, healthy, deep pink hybrid rugosa. We asked what its name was,but no one seems to know or where it came from. While we found no rose beds, and frankly hadn't expected to on the coast, we do know from our customer list that roses grow in Alaska.
Three corners of the U.S.A. - where people will endure anything for the love of a rose.