They say that Faith leads us to the realization of our Desires (“Build it and they will come“), or “Let Go and Let God” so when I found out that the Heritage Rose Foundation was to host their 25th year Anniversary in Lyon, France, I wanted to “Believe” that somehow I might be there. As Fate would have it, my sideline Real Estate license provided me with a much-deserved commission from a property sale with just enough to buy my tickets, rail pass and pay for the trip of a lifetime.
I knew that 3 days in Lyon would not be enough for my yen to see roses in Europe. I also knew that I did not envision myself traveling to many places alone. So I conjured up something I called a Working Vacation. This would basically involve visiting Rose Nurseries that I had known and read about over the years and offering my services to help wherever I was needed. I chose three of my favorite places, wrote to these places ahead of time, and planned my itinerary around their schedules. The 3 Nurseries I chose were: Rosenschule- Ruf in Stuttgardt, Germany, David Austin’s Gardens in Attleborough, UK, and Peter Beales Nursery in Albrighton.
I departed Gainesville airport after a 2 hour delay and changed planes in Atlanta after a 7 hour delay! Of course the one thing I left my house without was a decent jacket so I literally paid for it by freezing in the Atlanta airport waiting for the plane after all the stores had closed and no chance for buying a jacket at the airport. After packing way too much I still forgot the most important item I would need (a jacket), as Europe in the summer is still pretty chilly. I left on July 17th and landed in Paris on the 18th, switched planes and finally landed in Lyon, France. The French airlines hand out free little bottles of wine like Americans hand out sodas.
Thus began my adventure riding trains as I had to walk a long way to the Train depot connected to the airport and made my way onto my first train which would be a 45 minute ride to downtown Lyon where the Hotel was located. I am sure I drove the train ticket man a bit crazy as I kept asking “Do I get off here?” Because of all the plane delays I ended up walking to the Hotel at night (had planned for this to be in the daytime) and fortunately it wasn’t too far of a walk.
I stayed with most of the Conference attendees at the Best Western in Lyon. My room was a comedy of errors. The clock didn’t work, they did not have a booklet with info in my room so I could not call the desk, my internet connection was haywire and not easy to work. But the room was clean anyway. I ran into Anne Belovich in the Lobby and she introduced me to Stephen Scaniello whom I had not met. There was a little group in the lobby and we shared glasses of wine. The people I knew were Gregg Lowery from Vintage Gardens, Malcolm Manners and Mike Shupe who came with his wife Jean.
The next morning we all got on a bus and had a day of Field Trips. The first place we went was a large rose garden called Roseraie de St.- Galmier near Lyon. This was a very neatly laid out garden with 350 rose varieties, many in bloom and a large section of Old Roses as well as modern roses encompasing 2 acres. The mayor of the city came and spoke to our group as well as a group from Portugal. Three languages were used here (French, English and Portugese) and it was an interesting mixture. Our group enjoyed a wonderful lunch here together in the building and I fell in love with the rose on our table as the centerpiece and vowed to bring it to America on my next import. Here are some pictures from this garden and our lunch.
After lunch and the tour of the garden, we got back on the bus and headed for Fabian Ducher’s Rose Nursery where we were excited to see his rose fields and his new introductions. I had imported roses from him 6 months earlier but now I was happy to meet him and his wife Florence in person. His 6 acre nursery was set in the hills outside of Lyon with a beautiful view of the valley below. We walked through the roses with Fabian as he picked them and talked about some of his creations. We were all impressed that there was no irrigation on this field as the rainfall is sufficient here to water the roses.
These roses are all budded on root stock and it takes 2 years for a rose to reach market. One year for the root stock to grow and another year after budding for the rose to reach the right size.
I did not see ANY roses grown on their own roots in France, Germany, Switzerland or England. It is just not done, BUT! they always bury the rootstock so in most cases after a few years the rose has actually been able to grow it’s own roots enabling it to have a longer lifespan as well as survive the winters. They also use rootstocks that produce little or no suckers.
We returned to the huge bus and because the time was getting away from us, there was debate as to the possibility of having to miss our visit to the Venissieux Cemetary in Lyon, the old Cemetary of great Rosarians where all the great Hybridizers were buried. But alas we ended up going and found out later that Mike and Jean Shupe had paid for the entire bus trip this day which was extremely generous and they were the ones who ultimately told the bus driver to keep going. The Cemetary was a real treat. We had a guide who was very knowledgable and fun. She took us through the different tombs and gravesites and explained what was going on.
We walked all through the cemetary and saw the graves of Joseph Pernet-Ducher, Joseph Schwartz, Guillot, and others. The city was dedicated to making small rose gardens around the graves of the famous rose breeders using the roses they created. There was a map naming all the roses at each one.
They even had postcards for sale with rose stamps that had been created to commemorate some of the roses created in Lyon. I purchased some of these which you will see painted on the wall later.
The next day we went to the all day Conference where we heard from several speakers. Stephen Scaniello showed slides of the new Heritage Roses District of New York City, his rose garden project in Harlem. This was a wonderful story which was heartwarming and inspirational. Mike Shupe talked about his walk down the road of Old Roses describing some of the special stories about the Ultimate Garden Plant.. Gregg Lowery spoke in perfect fluent French, also describing mystery roses around the world and the importance of preserving the roses of history. There was an auction of rare rose books and some rare roses. WE had a great lunch at the Chateau and I enjoyed sitting at the table with the great great grandaughter of Nabonnand and my new friend Behcet who would drive me to his home in Switzerland the next day to get me closer to my destination in Germany.
The next day we all rode on a bus to partake in a huge ceremony the city of Lyon was having- it was a dedication of a gigantic mural painted on the wall of a highrise to commemorate the master rose breeders of Lyon. The pictures here show the extraordinary detail of the bottom of the wall. There was a lady also recognized for 5 years as head of their local Rose Society and Fabian Ducher brought a big basket of roses which was a new rose he had named for her They broke a bottle of champayne (tradition) over the roses. There was alot of speech making.
That night we all had dinner at a fancy restaurant where I had the pleasure of meeting and eating with Becky and John Hook from southern France. I had ordered roses from their Roseraie in February so I was happy to finally meet them.
I was so intrigued by the speeches (in French) and the large crowd that a few of us missed the bus back to the hotel! We were fortunately able to get a ride back with Etienne Bouret.
They called this the inauguration of the Painted Buildings. It was just by chance that our group happened to be in Lyon for this event.
The next morning Behcet and I began our journey by first visiting the famous rose garden of Madame Odile Masquelier in Lyon, La Bonne Maison, where she has lived for 50 years. I had read about her garden for years and finally we went to see it. Odile was there and showed us around after we had been all over. Unfortunately my camera batteries went out just when I was taking her picture. I did manage to take some pictures of the garden, although most of the roses had already flushed. But what a collection!
I am just getting the hang of this Blog and it is not easy placing the pictures where I want them. There are more pics I want to show. My next writing will be my trip to Behcet’s house by way of a cool authentic medieval town never changed since 1050 in France we stopped at for lunch on our way to Switzerland. Stay tuned!