Saving Plants for Future Generations

By Nancy Grundahl

The scent is exquisite, the petals are like burgundy velveteen. It’s an heirloom rose that was first grown at my grandmother’s house. My mother had taken a cutting for her house, and from that I took a cutting for mine. When we sold my mother’s house several years ago, I told the woman who bought it about the rose—how it was planted right by the front door so you would enjoy a whiff every time you went in or out. Sure, it didn’t look like much. It was a straggly plant that only bloomed for about 2 weeks in May. But, my goodness, for those 2 weeks – heaven!

Good thing I took a cutting for my house when I did because the next time we drove by, where once there was that special rose bush, along with azaleas and rhododendrons, there was now grass — plain, flat, boring grass. Everything was gone. It was so sad. Maybe the rose bush was transplanted to another area of the yard? I hope, but more likely it was trashed.

Then last year I read an article about a group in my area of Pennsylvania that searches for old varieties of roses to preserve them for future generations. They often look in cemeteries where decades ago someone may have planted their mom’s favorite variety. With the help of the Morris Arboretum Philadelphia, I tracked them down. They tentatively identified my rose as ‘Monsieur Boncenne’ 1864 bourbon. I am now rooting some cuttings to give to them.

The members of the Philadelphia Rose Society do a wonderful job, preserving for the future what we had in the past. Through the efforts of this and similar groups like Seed Savers, and through individuals like William Woys Weaver in nearby Devon, Pa. (who writes cookbooks and give dinners using old varieties of fruits and vegetables) they raise awareness and save plants that would otherwise be lost forever.

I think my grandmother would be happy to know that her rose lives on.

About the Author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently manages the web for the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Before getting involved with the web, she worked as an environmental scientist. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.