NEW ORLEANS – Their names hint at French nobility, and many come from roses that were grown in France almost two centuries ago.
La Sylphide, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Madame Berkeley and more are blooming now in Armstrong Park.
According to Leo Watermeier, a long-time French Quarter resident, the roses were first planted in the park in 1992 by the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society.
If you’re not familiar with the term “old roses,” think of them as the high-society ladies of formal gardens. Old roses, sometimes called “antique roses,” are so prized that cuttings are passed from one generation to the next. They tend to have long stems, perfect blossoms that change colors as they open, and an intoxicating fragrance.
In New Orleans, many of these roses were cultivated in French gardens and carried here by the early settlers. Today, Watermeier says the roses planted throughout Armstrong Park comprise “one of the largest collections in the world of old roses for warm climates.”
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” wrote the English poet Robert Herrick, “Old Time is still a- flying.” The roses in the park have survived our rainy and cold December so far, but may not last much longer. See them while you can, because they won’t bloom again until the spring.