A reader asked why I called these roses in Berkeley rare. No, I didn’t choose the word carelessly. I am sure I told this story a long time ago, but let’s go through it again. It turns out that all over the world, there are people who take flowers very seriously. Orchid breeders are probably the most… uh… committed? Intense? I’m sure there is a good word for it, but I don’t know what it is… rabid seems a little excessive, though. But rose breeders are not far behind.
Now I am not talking about people who like to have roses in their gardens. I am talking about the breeders, who take clippings off one rose and graft them to splits in other rose bushes, repeating this process many times over many years, and coming up with whole new varieties of roses.
These people often have hothouses or greenhouses that might look more like a laboratory than a place for growing plants. And they frequently name the new rose species after dear, departed loved ones, or give them cool, nonsensical names.
This explains why some of the roses you are looking at almost don’t look like roses anymore. You know, kind of like we are breeding dogs that almost don’t look like dogs anymore.
Anyway, these people show their roses in flower shows around the world, but they don’t always want to share them with the public. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want recognition. So they usually send a small rose bush to one other place on Earth. That is this rose garden, the Berkeley Rose Garden, which is part of the University of California, Berkeley, thus ensuring that their rose will be officially and scientifically recognized by botanists.
This also makes this the coolest rose garden anywhere, because you can find, if you show up at the right time, black roses, and parfait-colored roses and roses of colors you never knew existed.
And maybe, just maybe, that black rose exists only here, and in one hothouse in South Africa.
I didn’t see any black roses on this visit, but I have more pictures and posts coming. And I have another great story about this place. So stay tuned.
Oh, and it is in the Berkeley hills, so you get free views of San Francisco thrown in.