by Jill Perry
I had one of the best times I've had in years! First of all, I had no trouble getting there. The flights were crowded, and one flight had to detour around a storm, but my e-tickets saved my having to wait in line, and at 4:45 am, there were no long lines at the security check in. For those who decided not to come for fear of flying, I'm so sorry that you missed a great conference. For those of us who went, I think we were all ready to have a very happy, very social time. I'm sure I'm not the only one who had not been feeling very socially-oriented for the month after September 11, and this event made a welcome coming back out of my shell.
There were many people there who I'd heard of because of their books or their work with roses- Odile Masquelier, Gwen Fagan, Hella Brumme, Trevor Nottle, Dr. Henry Najat, Ruth Knopf, Malcolm Manners and Mike Shoup- who I had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know a bit. Several friends were there as well- Margaret Rose, Phyllis McLaughlin, Mel Hulse, Greg Lowery, Philip Robinson, Marlea Graham, Barbara Oliva, all from central California. A few people I'd "met" online through forums and emails, and finally got to really meet them, which was wonderful- Toni Cartisano, James Sagmiller (who grows 81 tea roses in a city-sized lot in Las Vegas, and is a fantastic painter of roses) and Gilles Noisette (yes, he is related to the originators of the Noisette rose class.) Then there were new friendships formed with complete strangers- Margaret O'Gorman of Scotland, David and Crenagh Elliott of Victoria, B. C., Allison McGee from Nova Scotia and Marilyn Raff of Colorado. It turns out that Marilyn and I are both friends of John Starnes (who was not at the conference, unfortunately) and we grew up about 10 miles apart in New Jersey. Finally, there were all the local committee members- Charleston natives and long time residents who treated us to their famous Southern hospitality, and who are all obviously very much in love with the city of Charleston and the surrounding countryside.
All of the talks were interesting, and the slides were excellent. In general, the emphasis was on the Noisettes, which originated in Charleston, with a lesser emphasis on the Tea and China roses. I'm not going to say a lot about each talk, but when the booklet of transcripts comes out to refresh my memory, I may add more. Talks were given in the mornings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, plus one after dinner talk. Here is a list of the speakers and topics, with a few comments.
I fell in love with Charleston. It is beautiful and very old, and the streets are narrow, and a few of them are brick. We had a bus tour of the city on Sunday, and a picnic lunch and tour of the Noisette Study Garden at Hampton Park on Monday. On Tuesday we were led on a walking tour of gardens and old houses on the "Rose Trail" planted in the oldest parts of Charleston. I also spent most of Saturday walking around town. If it weren't for July and August, and the threat of hurricanes and earthquakes, I could easily decide to move there. To see my pictures of Charleston, click here.
During the conference we took a bus tour to Boone Hall, a plantation site where Ruth Knopf has been planting Tea, Noisette and China roses (among other roses and underplantings)for the last 5 years. We all went wild photographing the roses. Boone Hall had the longest Live Oak allée of any plantation we visited.
Shortly after getting back from Boone Hall we boarded buses to go to Middleton Place. It is still owned by the family that started it, but now managed by the Middleton Place Foundation. (To see their website, click here.) The original formal gardens were restored during the early 1900s. The stable yard is now a living history center, where we saw several people doing crafts like pottery, weaving, and barrel making. We were treated to drinks, hors d'ouvres and live music while watching and talking to the craftspeople, after which we had a fantastic dinner, more live music and dancing. At the requeat of one attendee, we all were taught how to dance the Charleston.
There were four post-conference tours, two on Thursday and two on Friday. We could each only go on one each day. If anyone reading this went on the half day tours, please send me a synopsis that I can add to my comments on the full day tours. Pictures would be great, too.
The Brookgreen Gardens tour (website) was amazing. I had never heard of the place before. It is full of walled gardens, fountains and sculptures. One could easily spend a couple full days there. We had lunch at the carriage house of nearby Litchfield Plantation, which our guide said was the only plantation to still have both the original house and live oak allée. Much of the grounds, however, have been turned into expensive housing tracts. The lunch was delicious, as were all the meals provided by the conference. Many of us found our clothes shrinking in the waistline area by the third or fourth day.
The Wadmalaw Island tour went to the only tea plantation in the U.S. (but unfortunately, the owners didn't turn up to give us the tour and video. We looked at the tea plants anyway.) Then we went to Rockville at the end of the island. It was a summering place for plantation owners, and is still a nice village for spending the summers. We had lunch at a place known as "high point" which is a good 10 or 15 feet above sea-level, and the highest part of the island. The house there is lovely, with a huge live oak in front and a fairly new rose garden (of old teas, noisettes and chinas, of course) to the side. We had lunch under the oak.
To see my pictures of the places we visited, click here.
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