I've been following garden writer Alice Joyce on Twitter, @BayAreaTendrils. From there I found her blog where she recently wrote about the Russian River Rose Company in Sonoma County wine country, an hour north of San Francisco.
Russian River Roses is a mom-and-pop rose grower. They started out selling tomatoes and cucumbers at farmer's markets, until one day they brought some cut roses from their garden to sell, and sold out right away. A lot people were selling tomatoes and cucumbers, but noone was selling cut roses. Soon, the vegetable garden became a rose garden.
In addition to growing roses they also distill their own rose oil and make rose water. They invite the public to participate in that experience during weekend workshops in April and May. You can get details about that, and all their roses, on their website. We just visited today because we were curious to see the rose garden itself which is also open to the public only in April and May.
As they have no money for advertising, I am doing my part to help get the word out. Workshops are a good deal, ranging in price from $10-$50, refreshments included. It's apparently not too late to register for workshops this April and May.
Without further ado, let's get to the gardens, which circle the house.
Note: In some cases I named the roses pictured. If I did, the name should appear when you mouse over the picture.
I did not follow the self-guided tour, but I took pictures of a few signs.
Vineyards surround the rose garden. I took a few pictures of grapes too.
What I know about growing grapes could fit into a very thin volume.
Miles of northern California look like this now. Well, they have for decades.
Some of the older vines remind me of the bonsai garden in Gorst.
Getting back to the roses...
I suppose if you're on the fence and you still need another reason to come here it might help to learn they sell the roses they grow. I'm sure you know many of these very old varieties are not widely available in northern California nurseries. Here's you're chance if you live here.
I believe the website catalogs the extensive inventory of what's for sale.
In addition to roses, they sell many plant materials for butterfly gardens and a lot of bearded irises, including this one, 'Hello Darkness' which photographed purple but in real life was very nearly black.
This rose 'Butterscotch' intrigued me, but I need to research these things first
Their website would seem to indicate that 'Oklahoma' is their most/best fragrant rose so I was eager to encounter it when I came here. I wanted to compare it with 'Jude the Obscure', the rose I consider to have the most/best fragrance.
When it comes to roses, I am less than a novice. But if you want my opinion, 'Oklahoma' was nice, but it's no 'Jude the Obscure'.
Here's the rose water set-up. I smelled the sample bottle and it was quite amazing and hard to describe. What came immediately to mind was "a bowl of very ripe, tropical fruit". That's a poor description, but that's what I came up with.
That little sign on the left says, "Just a few drops of rose water transforms Champaign to delicious heights." I think they mean Champagne, but I'm sure the college town in Illinois would also be improved with a few drops of rose water.
Speaking of Illinois, why don't we end with this thought from that state's other notable US President:
You gotta love that good-old Midwestern common sense.