RINGLING ROSE GARDEN
What's A Few Weeds !!!
Before ground was broken for their Venetian-style Sarasota mansion, Ca' d'Zan, before all the paintings, tapestries and sculpture that would form the collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art were bought, Mable Ringling started her rose garden.
The Italianate wagon wheel of heady aromatic roses that was completed in 1913 turns 100 this month, making it the oldest tended rose garden in Florida.
John Ringling was a tall, blunt, all-business lover of excitement and the grandiose, perfect traits for a circus magnate. His Ohio farm girl wife was a pretty, petite and gracious lover of flowers, who was also an avid reader and a quick and lifelong learner.
The couple traveled throughout Europe. While John scouted new acts for the family's "Greatest Show on Earth," Mable spent her time in museums honing her taste. Together they bought what pleased them, especially in Italy.
Mable decorated all their homes - in addition to Ca' d'Zan, there was a 100-acre estate in Alpine, N.J., now part of Palisades Interstate Park; 636 Fifth Ave., now Rockefeller Center; a property in Chicago; and the neo-classical Worcester Home on Bird Key, part of a chain of barrier islands between mainland Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico. The Ringlings also owned 100,000 acres in Oklahoma and Montana.
They began wintering in Sarasota in 1911. When working with architects and craftsmen, Mable was as determined as her husband to have it her way. She must have been, to envision a formal rose garden in the 20-acre jungle of mangrove swamp, rattlesnakes, water moccasins and alligators along Sarasota Bay that they selected for their winter estate.
"We have records of her working wearing a gun on her hip and high boots," said Ron McCarty, curator of Ca' d'Zan for 32 years. "She was quite a woman."
Mable hated snakes, but they weren't going to stop progress on her rose garden. There was nothing like it in the Sarasota of those days, a quiet enclave of 800 souls when the Ringlings arrived.
Not that the Ringlings and the Florida land boom allowed it to stay that way for long. John became the area's largest landowner and built the causeway from Sarasota to St. Armands, Longboat, Lido and Bird keys, which he then developed.
After creating the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, he was instrumental in founding what has become the Ringling College of Art and Design.
Mable was elected first president of the first Sarasota garden club, the Founders Circle, and strongly supported beautifying the city growing around their winter home.
She was elected president of the Sarasota Woman's Club a year later. She commissioned the New York architect responsible for the exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to design their art museum in Sarasota.
Details of all our roses are available on our web site. Over 1000 varieties to choose from. (click below)
Rose News From Around The World
A NOSE FOR A ROSE Part 2
With the flower in its high season, an expert explains the proper way to take in their scent
ASK MICHAEL MARRIOTT about a rose he saw 10 years ago and he'll tell you the genus, variety and exactly what it smelled like. Considered one of the world's most knowledgeable rose noses, Mr. Marriott is senior rosarian for the prestigious English breeder David Austin Roses (2,500 of its blooms covered Queen Elizabeth's barge at the Diamond Jubilee recently). Mr. Marriott also designs beautiful private and public gardens in Russia, Bhutan, Japan, Europe and the U.S. From his home near Shropshire, England, he explained the proper way to smell a rose.
How to sniff: "Stick it up to your nose, roll it round a bit. Think about what is there, even if you can't identify it. Don't gob it down quickly like you are nervously tasting the wine at a restaurant. If the first one you try on a certain shrub doesn't smell, try another. Younger roses are generally more aromatic. The whole point of smell is to attract insects and in the older ones the pollen may have already been taken."
Optimum time to do it: "When the humidity is high, morning is usually best. The other important thing is the temperature two to three days before the flowers open. The perfume is formed then. If the weather is cold, you won't get much scent, but if it is lovely and warm you will get more fragrance."
Where does the smell come from? "In big flowers, like the old roses, it is made from three or four hundred oils in little glands on the flower petals. Three to four of them give it the overall character, but the others create the finer differences. In musk roses, with smaller flowers, it is made in the stamens, which smell clove-like. Clove is a preservative so it is thought that the scent helps preserve the stamens. Himalayan Musk is a great rose that climbs 30 feet in trees, producing tens of thousands of flowers that waft fragrance through the air."
The Gertrude Jekyll, above, is his current favourite.
Which roses smell best? "My immediate favourite is Gertrude Jekyll, which has a strong, classic old rose fragrance, and a strong pink colour. Lady Emma Hamilton has beautiful apricoty orangy colors and smells like guavas and litchis. Creamy white Claire Austin has a wonderful myrrh fragrance and grows to a good-size shrub."
Do roses ever smell bad? "Well, I don't like Maigold. I think it smells rather like saturated fat. But then Graham Thomas, one of the greatest plantsmen ever, really liked it. A few people think the myrrh roses smell like hospital rooms but I find them delightful—an anise smell like pastis."
How to preserve a cut rose's scent: "One good thing is to mist them to keep humidity up. Use a large vase for the same reason. Don't put them too close to the air conditioner or the fireplace because that will dry them out. Change the water on a fairly regular basis, of course."
Health benefits to sniffing: "Actually they did an experiment in Japan on stressed mice—they shocked them, not very nice—and found that smelling rose oil had a very beneficial effect, even better than Diazepam."
Details of all our highly perfumed roses are available on our web site.
Over 1000 varieties to choose from.