Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Celebration of Roses: "Rose Night" at the BBG

Rose Night at the Cranford Rose Garden is an annual event at the beginning of June that celebrates the garden when the roses are at their peak in blooms. The event is a soiree to which members are encouraged to wear period hats, bring a picnic, and dance the evening away in an atmosphere that harkens back to the early days of the garden.

After staking their claims - laying out their picnic blankets or setting out their dinner on one of the tables set along the mall next to the garden, attendees had an opportunity to wander through the gardens and enjoy the spectacular display of roses with the gardens at their seasonal peak.

A group performed lively music for dancing and entertainment.

Steve was unable to attend due to a prior commitment but encouraged me to go. Traveling alone is scary enough for me, but to New York City no less! Add a disability, a wheelchair, and a host of other complicating conditions and well, only someone who really loves roses would deign to attempt it. So, of course I went.

Afraid to tackle this adventure alone, we invited a close family friend, my adopted "Mum" Joan, to go along.

She was the perfect choice, as we both have a "thing" for period hats, vintage anything, and getting "gussied up".

We arrived early enough at the event to claim a comfortable bench next to the Rose Arc Pool where we could feast on our picnic, enjoy the music, and watch the activity.

Fewer guests "dressed the part" than we'd expected, but we didn't feel out of place at all. In fact,  we received several compliments on our hats and soiree attire.

Ironically, they weren't the hats we'd planned to wear (those had been accidentally left behind). Determined to wear "fancy hats", guided by the helpful staff at our hotel, we navigated the NY subway system in search of a mall. Our hats for the evening were last minute purchases we'd been able to scavenge that morning.  Still, we were dressed to the nines and loved every minute of the festivities. 

Joan's hat was a black straw hat that matched her dress perfectly. Her dress was an organza with a handkerchief hem and was adorned with beaded and embroidered roses.

My hat had a wired ribbon ruffle and feathers clustered in the back. I dressed it up even more with a black and white ruffled scarf that circled the brim and cascaded down my back. My black skirt hung in gathered scallops and I had a simple white shell with a ruffle falling from the  neck. We'd each brought fancy shawls in case the temperature was cool, but the night was perfect and we didn't need them.

We enjoyed watching the families who were picnicking with their children, often with grandparents or other extended family members and friends as well.  It was especially nice to see kids running through the area, laughing and playing, and families establishing traditions around this event.

The Cranford Rose Garden opened in 1928 and is a highly regarded collection of both old world "antique" or "heirloom" roses, species roses, and more modern varieties.  Roses of every class and color cascade over trellises and pillars and fill an immense series of beds. According to the web site, the garden still contains some of the original roses that were planted in 1927.

The garden is a living memorial to Walter V. Cranford, the subway engineer and garden philanthropist who funded the entire cost of the initial construction.  The original garden was designed by Harold A. Caparn. A pioneer in landscape architecture who taught the first formal course ever offered in landscape architecture at Columbia University, his work as the consulting landscape architect for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is considered his greatest professional achievement. He was assisted in this project by Montague Free, the garden's horticulturist at the time.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening as well as yet another opportunity to wander through the fragrant roses, and I hope to begin an annual tradition of our own, attending this fun event.

Along the walkway facing the "rose hill". The pale almost peachypink colored rose in the middle is Abraham Darby, a David Austin English shrub rose. The roses on the hill are bordered by catmint, an herb that we also pair with roses in our own garden at home.
I don't know the name of this rose, but it was quite a beauty so I snapped a picture of it just the same! (I could not find rose tags for some of the roses.)
This is one of two very old, very gnarled weeping cherries that anchor the farthest corners of the mall next to the rose garden, where the event was held.
Picnickers toted coolers ranging from small totes to large, wheeled ice chests. We saw everything from sushi to fried chicken, sandwiches and salads.
There were tables dressed with red tablecloths and white chairs, but many people brought blankets and picnic baskets as well.  We arrived at about 5:45 PM and over the course of the next 45 minutes, the mall gradually filled with members.
The Rose Arc Pool is a truly lovely area to wander and meditate.
The unidentified yellow rose toward the back on the right is along the far side of the walkway behind the border of red roses, and has a truly magnificent fragrance. The roses massed in front along the edge of the pool are Knock Outs.
The Chevy Chase Rambler was covered with blossoms. A spring flowering non-repeat bloomer, I was happy to be able to be here when it was in full bloom
The Chevy Chase rambler covers much of the fence along the lane that leads to the Rose Arc Pool and the rose garden proper.  Cecile Brunner is prominently featured along the fence that continues on the far side of the Pool up to the main gate of the rose garden.

The profusion of scarlet blossoms were not as fragrant as I'd hoped they'd be, probably because it was so late in the day and the weather had been so very hot and humid. But there was not mistaking the sweet, tea rose fragrance.
I'm unsure of the cultivar but this perfect peach colored blossom has a wonderful fragrance.

Tucked into the farthest corner of the long trellis, the Mary Lovett is a pure white Hybrid Wichurana, a large-flowered climber.  The photographs simply don't do it justice.
A perfect Mary Lovett bloom poking from the back side of the trellis. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to enjoy the lovely fragrance of this bloom.
The gated entrance to the main garden. Catmint fronts the climbing roses that adorn the trellised walls.
A hint of the breathtaking beauty that lies beyond the trellised pavilion that spans the garden.
A Victorian style latticed pavilion stretches across the garden, with pergolas on either side extending over the walking paths and providing support for some beautiful climbers.

This John Cabot is a stunning feast for the eyes. Though the fragrance was very mild, it was sweet and lovely just the same.
The pavilion forms a lovely backdrop for a bronze statue of a young woman with roses cascading over her shoulder and a sundial in her hand, set in a circular rose bed.


  1. This is a beautiful place. The designs and beds are spectacular. The event looked like a wonderful, and fun affair.

  2. What a grand event to attend and a wonderful tradition to begin. The roses look stunning. I'm afraid our Roses in June may not happen til July, it's been a wet and cold Spring.

  3. Wow Cathy,
    What a beautiful garden! The event sounds like such fun, I live in NY and have never heard of it!
    I will have to check it out next year, thanks for the tip.
    Love getting to wear fun hats, Yours were great!

  4. Thank you for the tour! It was wonderful to take a virtual stroll through this amazing garden with such a lovely and well-dressed lady.

  5. So glad you got to go and experience this! Glad that your friend went - I personally would be a bit hesitant to go to New York alone myself! And thanks for sharing with us. Hats are very 'in' right now - glad you dressed up - it always makes things feel so much more special. Beautiful pics of the garden. That catmint does look beautiful with the roses.


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