Roses in early Utah gardens

Despite the fact that early Utah settlers relied on their gardens for survival, they still found time and space to grow plants they found beautiful, and roses were among their favorites. Mormon pioneers, especially, saw significance in the rose because of the Biblical statement that “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1, King James Version). Many Mormons saw their settlement in Utah as the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Utah’s pioneer era coincides with the explosion of rose varieties during the Victorian period. In another post I’ll deal with the issue of the first roses grown in Utah, but it wasn’t long before Utah settlers had access to some of the latest roses by way of the nurseries that sprung up in California after the 1849 Gold Rush (Thomas Christopher’s In Search of Lost Roses has a great discussion of roses and the Gold Rush).

Early Utah nurseryman Joseph Ellis Johnson’s garden journals (volume 9, 1868-1872), held in the University of Utah’s archives, lists a number of roses he ordered from California. Many of these varieties are now extinct (or maybe growing forgotten somewhere . . .), but some of them are still available in commerce. The old garden or antique roses that have survived until today tend to be great landscape plants: hardy, beautiful, richly scented, and much easier to grow than modern roses. Here are some from Johnson’s journals:

Bourbon roses: Blanche Lafitte (white), Louise Odier (pink), Mrs. Bosanquet (light pink), Sir Joseph Paxton (red), and Souvenir de la Malmaison (light pink).

Hybrid perpetuals and damask perpetuals: Baronne Adolphe de Rothchild (pink), General Jacqueminot (red), Giant of Battles (red), Lion of Combat (red), Marquesa Boccella (pink), and Sidonie (pink).

Moss rose: Madame William Paul (pink).

The next two classes of roses are not as cold hardy as those above, but can still be grown in many parts of Utah, especially with winter protection.

Noisettes: Jacques Amiot (pink), Joan of Arc (white), Lady Emily Peel (white), Lamarque (light yellow), and Marechal Niel (yellow).

Chinas: Agrippina (red), Cels Multiflora (light pink), Cramoisi Superieur (red), Gloire des Rosomanes (red), Hermosa (pink), and Louis Phillippe (red).


About eabwheeler

Freelance writer mainly working on projects about history, historic preservation, and children and nature. I'm also venturing into historical fiction and fantasy. I have graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture. I like gardening, sewing, folk music, and rainy afternoons with a good book. My debut novel, a Victorian paranormal mystery, THE HAUNTING OF SPRINGETT HALL, will be available in print and ebook July 14, 2015 from Cedar Fort Publishing.
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2 Responses to Roses in early Utah gardens

  1. Jess says:

    Thanks for this! I was wondering if it was possible to produce maple syrup in Utah. I am very excited to experiment!

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