Rose sale is Saturday in City Park: Annette Sisco’s ‘Only in New Orleans” column, March 7, 2013

“You don’t pillage the bush,” City Park gardening volunteer Timmie Reinecke said, explaining the do’s and don’ts of nabbing roses for seeds.

“You’re deadheading,” she went on. “What you’re doing is good for the bush. They need to be deadheaded, don’t they?”

There’s a smile in her voice. And a pair of clippers in her glove compartment.

Rose bushes nurtured by this volunteer and other dedicated fanciers will be on sale this weekend at the Botanical Garden’s annual rose sale, an opportunity to choose unique, hardy, local flowering plants for $10 a gallon pot.

The sale is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Greenhouse, near Zachary Taylor Drive and Henry Thomas Drive, next to Interstate 610.

The roses, including varieties grown in the New Orleans area since the 1840s, are mostly Old Garden Roses, antique and tea roses, said Kathy McNamara of the Botanical Garden.

“They vary a lot, but the general feeling is that the old roses are not as picky,” she said. “We try to get ones that are going to do well, that we can recommend and say this is a great rose.”

Besides roses, there will be poppies, larkspur, nasturtiums and herbs for $2.

McNamara gives all the credit to the volunteers who propagate roses for the park.

Many of the roses are grown from shrubs that thrive in the park and local backyards.

But dedicated rose fanciers also make it their business to liberate the occasional twig or blossom from roses they see on roadsides and in cemeteries, bringing their treasures home and nurturing them into new shrubs.

Driving back to New Orleans a few years ago from a trip to visit one of her daughters, Reinecke spotted a flash of color by the side of the highway.

“I stopped the car and jumped out and jumped the ditch — I always carry clippers with me,” she said. “It grew. We never could identify it. We call it the False River climber.”

The treasure hunt has taken the New Orleans retiree deep into Plaquemines Parish, where the Peggy Martin rose, a survivor of the briny flood after Hurricane Katrina, was collected and brought to City Park.

Roses blooming outside abandoned homesteads often catch her eye.

“Texas ‘rose rustlers’ are famous for doing that, going out into the country and finding abandoned houses,” she said. “You can also rustle in cemeteries.”

A fond memory is wandering a Brooklyn botanical garden with another daughter, “stuffing my pockets full of rose hips.”

“They hadn’t been deadheading,” Reinecke said briskly, referring to the best-practices gardening habit of removing old flowers to encourage new growth. Anyway, “I think the statute of limitations is long gone.”

Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at asisco@
theadvocate.com.