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American Made Series: Rose Story Farm

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On this month’s American Made Series page in Living, we featured Danielle and Bill Hahn of Rose Story Farm. The couple has specialized in 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 tried to stay away from the dirt and the work. Slowly, I have learned to appreciate all facets of gardening and now I find the results are that much more thrilling 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 and shape of the blooms themselves, I find enjoyment in so many features of this incredible flower. Fragrance, the sense of romance, and the variety 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 roses your main pursuit?

Yes, I grow many companion plants that I use in my rose arrangements. I am 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 grow avocados, lemons, pit fruits and have a huge vegetable garden each summer. I chose roses as a business pursuit primarily because at the time, no one else was growing the old American varieties, nor any of the romantic European roses for commercial purposes or cut roses.

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

The rose family is vast indeed. There are more than 3000 varieties in commerce at any one time.  Many are difficult to find, but there are so many beauties to choose from. To make the cut, so to speak, in our farm, the rose must be fragrant, unusual in color or shape, disease resistant, and most importantly, hold up in the cutting and shipping process. Shipping is the most difficult aspect of the business. While there have been many improvements in vase life and techniques to improve such, a rose cut from the garden typically cannot be expected to last longer than 5 to 7 days in the vase. I have tried to educate those who buy our flowers to acknowledge that roses can and should be enjoyed in the moment. If we thought 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, but hopefully in 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 me–Dany 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, it’s much easier to garden in a green fashion.

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

Yes, our home is always filled with roses. During the dormant season, I grow bulbs and use greenery and bulb flowers to replace the much missed roses. When the fruit trees begin to bloom, we cut branches (sparingly) to bring in, knowing that the roses are not far behind. When the 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 be discouraged when things don’t go as expected. If a rose plant is not doing well, you can try a different growing technique (perhaps a new or more frequent feeding program), try a new variety, or move the existing variety to a different spot. Roses are extremely resilient and they are patient with us if we are patient with them. Experiment and enjoy the experience. Some of our best results on the farm have come about after a huge disaster in the garden! Remember, you are your own worst critic, no one sees what you see in your garden! Roses are a great reminder to us to slow down and enjoy the outdoors and what we grow in our garden. Our weekly 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 blooms surrounding them, experiencing the garden first hand! We’re hoping to have you all visit sometime soon. Look for our rose growing by the month manual, due out this spring!

Maeve Nicholson is a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living. Follow her on Instagram.com @maeverz.


(photos: copyright Victoria Pearson)

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