Monday, February 25, 2013

American Made Series: Rose Story Farm

On this monthsAmerican Made Series page in Living,we featured Danielle and Bill Hahn ofRose Story Farm. The couple hasspecializedin heritage American roses since 1998.

Have you always had a passion for gardening?

I have always had a passion for what comes out of a garden, but had triedto stay away from the dirt and the work. Slowly, I have learned to appreciateall facets of gardening and now I find the results are that much morethrilling if I have literally had a hand in it (the dirt!).

What do you love about roses in particular?

Roses are complex. From their historical significance to the form andshape of the blooms themselves, I find enjoyment in so many features ofthis incredible flower. Fragrance, the sense of romance, and thevariety of colors are three of my favorite aspects of the genus rosa.These are certainly the predominant reasons I chose to grow them.

Do you farm any other flowers or plants? What led you to make rosesyour main pursuit?

Yes, I grow many companion plants that I use in my rose arrangements. Iam always trying something new! I grow bulb flowers (all colors of iris),geraniums to use for greenery, hydrangeas (all kinds), dahlias, zinnias,succulents, aloes, alliums, lavenders, and herbs. In addition, we growavocados, lemons, pit fruits and have a huge vegetable garden eachsummer. I chose roses as a business pursuit primarily because at thetime, no one else was growing the old American varieties, nor any of theromantic European roses for commercial purposes or cut roses.

I know you specialize in rare and unique varieties of roses; how vast isthe rose family? Do you have any personal favorites?

The rose family is vast indeed. There are more than 3000 varieties incommerce at any one time. Many are difficult to find, but there are somany beauties to choose from. To make the cut, so to speak, in our farm, therose must be fragrant, unusual in color or shape, disease resistant, andmost importantly, hold up in the cutting and shipping process. Shippingis the most difficult aspect of the business. While there have been manyimprovements in vase life and techniques to improve such, a rose cut fromthe garden typically cannot be expected to last longer than 5 to 7 days inthe vase. I have tried to educate those who buy our flowers toacknowledge that roses can and should be enjoyed in the moment. If wethought of roses like a wonderful meal or a fine wine, we might not be as frustrated with their relatively short vase life. Some of the most beautiful roses remain beautiful, albeit different, even after dropping all their petals. My favorites are the Guillot family of roses. Many have such beautiful shapes and colors. The petals tend to be more relaxed than those of other European heritage roses. Currently, these are not easy to find, buthopefullyin the next few years this will change. Varieties to look out for: Martine Guillot, Madame Paul Massad, Paul Bocuse, Florence de Lattre, and a new variety named after meDany Hahn.

On your website, you mention that your roses are cultivated naturally;could you give us a brief rundown on the various techniques?

Cultivating roses naturally here at the farm means that we try to do everything in a green-minded fashion. We use a slow drip system to irrigate, all organic fertilizers (run through the drip system to feed our plants and promote bloom), and we spray the plants with wonderful fragrant oils for disease prevention and to deter bugs. If one accepts that occasionally there will be an imperfection in a bloom, its much easier to garden in a green fashion.

I imagine your home is always filled with flowers! What is the biggestbenefit of devoting your career to raising roses?

Yes, our home is always filled with roses. During the dormant season, Igrow bulbs and use greenery and bulb flowers to replace the much missedroses. When the fruit trees begin to bloom, we cut branches (sparingly) to bring in, knowing that the roses are not far behind. Whenthe first bloom appears in the spring, it is always exciting and exhilarating; the fragrance in the garden is overwhelming. However, I would have to say that while having a house full of roses is terrific, the most rewarding aspect of rose growing on the scale that we do is being able to share with others share the blooms, share stories about roses, exchange tips with other rose growers and enthusiasts. It has been a great opportunity to meet people and encourage others to garden and, of course, to grow roses.

Any flower farming tips for our rose enthusiast readers?
Yes, we have lots of tips to share. The most important is not to bediscouraged when things dont go as expected. If a rose plant is notdoing well, you can try a different growing technique (perhaps a new ormore frequent feeding program), try a new variety, or move the existing variety to a different spot. Roses are extremely resilient and they arepatient with us if we are patient with them. Experiment and enjoy theexperience. Some of our best results on the farm have come about after ahuge disaster in the garden! Remember, you are your own worst critic, noone sees what you see in your garden! Roses are a great reminder to usto slow down and enjoy the outdoors and what we grow in our garden. Ourweekly tours are filled with tips and advice and no question goes unanswered. It is a hands on experience, not only do we share ideas about rose growing, but we encourage our visitors to touch and smell the bloomssurrounding them, experiencing the garden first hand! Were hoping to have youall visit sometime soon. Look for our rose growing by the month manual,due out this spring!

Maeve Nicholson is a contributing editor atMartha Stewart Living. Follow her on

(photos: copyright Victoria Pearson)

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