Celebrating 50 Years of Blooms

The family-owned and operated nursery began in the early 1970’s as a passionate hobby for air traffic controller, John Clements, who grew and propagated miniature roses on his days off to relieve the stress of a very taxing job. Small World Miniature Roses expanded in 1979 when John hybridized his first rose “Morning Has Broken,” named for his new bride’s favorite hymn, and began selling wholesale roses to local nurseries.

John and Louise moved closer to family in 1981 and ended up on almost five acres in St. Paul, Oregon, where Heirloom Roses still is located today. Louise, a budding artist, hand painted a plywood sign and rented a local storefront on Portland Road in Newberg, Oregon, where she sold John’s roses to the public in her own little shop. The couple’s hobby was turning slightly profitable when John suffered a massive heart attack and retired from air traffic control.

As he recovered, John’s passion for roses only grew, prompting European travels including visits to East Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. John and Louise fell in love with Old Garden Roses and the intricately planned designs of English gardens abroad. Determined to recreate that at home, John led the new direction of American roses by introducing English varieties, Ramblers, new Climbers, and other varieties never before grown in the United States.

A serendipitous visit from a neighbor expanded the nursery from five to 25 acres overnight and Heirloom Roses was born. Visitors from around the world made yearly visits to see John’s English-style gardens and Louise jumped head first into propagation. Even though she could propagate 300 plants in an hour, the Clements hired their first full-time employees and welcomed them into the family. It was not uncommon for the family kitchen table to be full of children and employees each afternoon while Louise served up lunch or celebrated an employee’s birthday with a homemade cake. 

The 1990’s saw continued growth as Heirloom Roses switched from a wholesale nursery to selling to the general public. Louise organized the catalog and hand drew each rose that first year since they couldn’t afford professional photography. While the catalogs eventually included photographed roses, John continued planting 20,000 new seedlings each year, looking for new roses to introduce to market. Heirloom Roses has since introduced more than 127 beloved varieties of John’s seedlings to gardeners around the country including: The Impressionist, April Love, Tranquility, Fragrant Masterpiece, Louise Clements, Portlandia, and Braveheart.

After John’s unexpected passing in 2007, Louise, her daughter Brenda, and their employees continued growing the business until Louise decided to retire in 2012. Within a week of deciding to retire, Louise’s brother introduced her to Ben and Kara Hanna who were looking for a nursery to purchase and were already long-time Heirloom Roses customers. The providential meeting was instrumental and a blessing for both families. This meeting forged a strong relationship and a change of ownership as Ben and Kara purchased Heirloom Roses in 2013.

During the next ten years, Heirloom Roses underwent major milestones including the creation of more stockfields to preserve thousands of roses, increasing the plant size from band pots to gallon sized pots, and the very hard decision to close the onsite gardens. As online shopping became the normal place to purchase all things, including roses, online sales took off while onsite sales and visits to the nursery declined. Ben and Kara made the hard decision to close the retail center and the gardens, relocate the plants to the stock fields, and use the remaining space to add more greenhouses to keep up with growing customer demand.

With the Hannas at the helm, Heirloom Roses’ growth has exploded. The Hannas continue to make people the priority as they strive to deliver premium roses and amendments that make the customer’s life easier and enjoyable. 

There's been a lot of things growing up at the nursery, including the Hanna kids. All five of them have worked in various capacities at the nursery and their experiences have greatly shaped their personal development for the better.

Fifty years of blooms have come and gone at Heirloom Roses in St. Paul, but some things never change. The nursery still sits on the same property, Heirloom Roses still hand propagates only high-quality, own-root roses, and employees still sit down for lunch in Louise’s kitchen. It is an honor to continue to provide customers with, as Louise always says, “the roses you need and the roses you love.”