Roses are beautiful to look and valued

Posted1/3/2017 1:00 PM
  • The Chicago Peace rose at Cantigny's rose garden, one of more than 20 garden and pond areas within the 29-acre park.

    The Chicago Peace rose at Cantigny's rose garden, one of more than 20 garden and pond areas within the 29-acre park. Courtesy of Cantigny

A student in Gregg Thompson's sixth-grade social studies class at Woodlands Middle School in Gurnee asked, "Why do roses smell so sweet?"

Roses are the most regal plant in the garden.

The flower features velvety petals ranging in color from vivid reds, yellows and pinks to soft butter and milk. They certainly are stunning to look at, and roses give off captivating aromas, in the garden, in a bouquet or as rose scent in perfumes and soaps.

Roses are so special they are selected to commemorate momentous occasions, such as weddings, Olympic wins, awe-inspiring acting and even horse race champions. Roses are a unique feature in the annual Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, where each float is bedecked with thousands of roses and other natural plant materials.

Beautiful to look at and valued as a garden plant and cutting, there's profit in those nosegays. Rose bouquets sell year-round. Trends show a sales spike at Valentine's Day, with a vibrant market from October through February. Weddings driving sales again April through June.

Horticulturalists at Cantigny Park, Robert R. McCormick's estate in Wheaton, have trimmed and mulched the rose garden plants so they can survive the winter snow and ice. Cantigny's rose plants fall into several classifications, including tea and climbing tea, grandiflora, hybrid tea and floribunda, miniature and shrub.

Why do they smell so sweet?

"It has to do with the hybrid, the DNA," said Craig Myroup, Cantigny horticulturalist. "Recently there's been a movement to bring fragrance back."

Impressive displays in the park's rose garden incorporate the plant's vast color palate and range of fragrances.

"We have 1,000 different rose bushes," Myroup explained, "and 70 to 75 different varieties."

When a variety produces a sport, the cross from an existing variety that blooms in a different color, a new variety can emerge. A sport discovered on the grounds came from historic origins and was named the Chicago Peace rose.

"Prior to the outbreak of World War II, one of the breeders in Europe sent a prized rose variety to different countries around the world," Myroup said.

The variety was named the Peace rose and debuted in Pasadena in 1945. Peace roses were given to all United Nations delegates when Germany surrendered in May 1945. A sport derived from Peace rose plants was found at Cantigny and was verified as a new variety called Chicago Peace rose.

The original Peace rose, Myroup said, was pale yellow with a little light pink. The Chicago Peace rose has the same yellow but also includes accents of a coppery pink. The rose garden at Cantigny is now closed until late April when the plants begin to bloom.

"My favorite is Julia Child, a yellow floribunda. Once it starts flowering, it flowers through the season," Myroup said.

He suggests the best time to visit the rose garden is around Father's Day in June when all the roses are in full bloom.

A visit to Cantigny could include hiking, golfing, exploring the gardens, visiting the First Division Museum or the McCormick Museum, picnicking on the grounds, climbing on tanks, taking a class or enjoying a concert. The McCormick Museum, McCormick's former mansion, is closed in January and has a limited schedule in February. Check the website for specific days and times of operation. The First Division museum is undergoing complete renovation and will reopen in summer 2017.

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