Now is a great time to tour the many rose gardens around your city as roses are coming into bloom now and making a spectacular show. I had the pleasure of touring the Antique Garden Roses at LouisArmstrongPark as a part of the Louisiana Master Gardeners' field trip series. Rosarian Leo Watermeier, who is the curator for the antique rose garden at Louis Armstrong Park, led the tour through the roses.. So amidst all of the beautiful fountains, lagoons, bridges, and rhythmic statuary; there are other performers making their encore appearance. The antique rose garden at LouisArmstrongPark is putting on an awesome show in every color of the rainbow. Large lush bushes bursting with blooms were the definite indication that spring is on the horizon, even though it was a little nippy that Saturday morning.
This garden is a project of the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society, of which Mr. Watermeier is a member. This means that all of the rose bushes, over 170 varieties in all, were acquired through donations and/or purchase by the Society; and not the City of New Orleans. All of the labeling to identify each bush was also donated by the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society. Also the majority of the care of the rose bushes is through volunteer effort along with a Parkways Partners agreement for its ongoing maintenance.
What makes this rose garden different from most other rose gardens is that there are only old garden roses planted in this garden, not what you find at most of the garden centers. Antique garden roses are roses that were introduced before 1867 and are usually cultivated on their own roots, (meaning they were taken as cuttings and grown from that cutting and not grafted onto another plant). Antique garden roses are disease-resistant and easy to grow with minimal maintenance. Many of them are specimen plants meaning they can get very large, and several species bloom regularly throughout the year. They have lush foliage and beautiful fragrances. Believe it or not, old garden roses are much less fussy than many of the new roses like hybrid teas.
The Antique Roses garden at LouisArmstrongPark, which now boasts 175 different rose varieties of mainly teas, chinas, noisettes, hybrid musks, tea-noisettes and Bourbons; started with just 6 rose bushes planted back in 1992. The original designer of the rose garden was Maureen Deteiler and our tour guide, Mr. Watermeier, has been the curator of the rose garden since its inception.This garden has one of the largest public collections of old garden roses for warm climates in the entire world.
Of course we all love the knock out roses and many of the new hybrids, but the old garden roses are rare and wonderfully fragrant. You will probably not find them at your favorite gardening center but the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society is having its annual sale on April 13, 2014. It would be great to visit the Antique Rose Garden at LouisArmstrongPark, pen in hand, and jot down the names of the rose bushes you like and take that to the sale. http://www.neworleans-oldrose.com/
If you would like to learn more about old garden roses and play in the dirt, consider volunteering at the antique rose garden in ArmstrongPark on Sundays from . until .
By all means visit the amazing antique rose garden at ArmstrongPark, but know that the entire facility is such an experience for all of the senses. The imposing Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center is in the background. Dancing fountains and swimming fowl grace the center of the park, in the foreground is the massive arched gate proclaiming “Armstrong,” and to the left of the gate is Congo Square. There are meandering walkways lined with benches, magnificent statues, and the intoxicating fragrance of the old garden roses to please the gardener in you, the artist in you, the musician in you, and the fantasy in you. It is so New Orleans!
This article was published in Data News Weekly's April 11, 2014 edition.