The “Peggy Martin Survivor Rose”
Dr. William C. Welch
Peggy Martin has been a mainstay in the New Orleans Old
Garden Rose Society for many years. She and her husband,
MJ, lived in Plaquemines Parish a few miles across the
Mississippi River from the city of New Orleans. My wife,
Diane, and I were her guests several years ago when I
accepted a speaking engagement for the NOOGRS.
Peggy graciously cared for us during our visit and entertained
us in her home with a memorable Louisiana style seafood
boil that had been harvested by her husband just hours before.
Peggy’s garden included a wonderful collection of
old roses assembled with love and care over the years. There
were many wonderful specimens that appealed to me but one
rambler in particular caught my eye. I am always interested
in thornless roses and Peggy was particularly enthusiastic
about a large, healthy specimen she had collected in 1989
in New Orleans. According to Peggy “I was given cuttings
of the thornless climber in 1989 by Ellen Dupriest who had
gotten her rose cuttings from her mother-in-law, Faye Dupriest.
Faye had gotten her cuttings from a relative’s garden
in New Orleans. When I first saw this rose it was in full
bloom and smothered the 8ft wooden fence in Ellen’s
back yard. It took my breath away! I had never seen a rose
so lushly beautiful with thornless bright green foliage
that was disease free. All along the canes there were clusters
of roses that resembled perfect nosegays of blooms”.
I departed from New Orleans in the late summer of 2003
with several cuttings of Peggy’s thornless climber.
I was pleased that the cuttings rooted quickly and immediately
set one on the fence that encloses the A/C equipment at
Fragilee, our weekend home in Washington County, TX. I was
a little dubious of the site I had selected because the
soil was less than ideal. My concern soon disappeared as
I saw the cutting quickly mature into a vigorous specimen
that spans most of the 12-15 linear feet of 4’ tall
I didn’t allow myself to get overly excited about
the plant because I assumed that it would be a “once
bloomer” with a fairly short flowering season in the
spring. On a subsequent visit with Peggy she indicated that
my plant would rebloom in the fall after it had been established
for a couple of years. I must admit that I had some doubt
about the rebloom in our hot and sometimes very dry Texas
climate. Last year Peggy’s rose rewarded us with a
nice bloom from September through November. Even with being
covered by ice for two days during mid-December ’05
we have had some scattered bloom all winter.
‘Katrina’ takes its Toll
We fretted about many of our New Orleans friends during
the ‘Katrina’ storm. Getting information was
not easy with so much of the communications system inoperative.
We were uneasy about traveling to Birmingham for an annual
meeting with the gardens staff for Southern Living. We spent
the night of September 7, at our home in Mangham, La. Mangham
is in the northeastern part of the state and ‘Katrina’
had only brushed by as it veered to the east through Mississippi.
We were relieved that our cotton and soybean crops received
only minor damage and the old pecan trees in our yard suffered
little more than loss of most of this year’s crop.
Upon arrival in Birmingham we checked into the Marriott
Courtyard located near the Southern Living headquarters.
Early the next morning we went to breakfast and were seated
adjacent to two couples who sounded like they had New Orleans
accents. After introducing ourselves we learned that they
were from Plaquemines Parish and had lost their homes. Birmingham
was the first place they were able to find shelter. I asked
them if they knew Peggy Martin and her family and they said
they knew them well and were we familiar with the tragedy
of their losses? It seems that Peggy lost both her elderly
parents in the flood that inundated nearly all of Plaquemines
Parish. We were, of course, deeply saddened that Peggy had
lost her parents, her home, and commercial fishing boat
that her husband used to supplement their income.
An Inspirational Survivor
It took a couple of months for me to reestablish communication
with Peggy. She and her family have moved to Gonzales, LA
which is close to Baton Rouge on Interstate 10. I asked
Peggy about her roses and home and she indicated the house
and garden were under about 20’ of salt water for
two weeks following the hurricane. When she was finally
able to return to visit their property she was heartened
to see the lush growth of her thornless climber, a testament
to its toughness and status as a true survivor. This rose
and one crinum were all that remained of the once beautiful
I had already been convinced that this rose deserved to
be widely available and enjoyed by gardeners in other locations.
Its disease resistance, thornless stems and colorful displays
of bright pink flowers along with a graceful vining form
make it a logical choice for creating beautiful garden pictures.
My specimen is literally covered with clusters of dark pink
flowers each spring from mid-March through May. It starts
blooming again in late summer and repeats until a hard frost
slows it down for the winter.
A Way to Help
In mid-January I was pleased to receive a notification
that my friend Nancy Godshall, a member of the Garden Club
of Houston and currently Zone IX Director for the Garden
Club of America had given a donation in my name to a recently
established Zone IX Horticulture Restoration Fund. The fund
was established for the purpose of restoring parks, gardens
and green space in New Orleans, LA, Laurel, MS and Beaumont
TX, following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I was pleased
to learn that Nancy Thomas, also from Houston and a former
GCA President was closely involved in selecting projects
for the restoration fund.
An idea came to me several weeks ago “in the middle
of the night” about growing the “Peggy Martin”
rose as a fund raiser for Zone IX Horticulture Restoration
Fund. First, I checked with Peggy to see if she would be
in agreement then I went to Mike Shoup, owner of the Antique
Rose Emporium. Mike is enthusiastic and has already stuck
the first small crop of cuttings we provided a couple of
weeks ago. He is certain that he can produce a good crop
by fall ’06 and has pledged a dollar per plant will
go to the Fund. Jason and Shelley Powell, owners of Petals
from the Past Nursery in Jemison, AL were impressed with
the rose while visiting here in late October, ’05
and took quite a few cuttings at that time. Jason reports
that they already have sixty or seventy rooted cuttings.
Jason received his Master’s Degree from Texas A &
M and was an early recipient of my scholarship sponsored
by Texas Garden Clubs, Inc.. Mark Chamblee, owner of Chamblee
Rose Nursery in Tyler, TX has received a small stock plant
and is enthusiastic about marketing the rose as is Aubrey
King, owner of King’s Nursery in Tenaha, TX. Addresses
and phone numbers for these sources are included below.
A first crop from these growers should be available as early
as the fall of ’06 with larger numbers in ’07.
Each of these growers has pledged a $1.00 per plant donation
to the Garden Restoration Fund for each plant. Reduced or
wholesale prices may be available for Garden Club Plant
Sales, Master Gardener Events, etc.. This would allow more
opportunity for contributions.
Since the original Horticulture Restoration Fund had a
time limit of September 1, 2006, Nancy Godshall and Dr.
William C. Welch, Extension Horticulturist at Texas A &
M University have set up a new fund with the Greater Houston
Community Foundation. Distribution of the funds will be
done through a committee set up by Mrs. Godshall and Dr.
Welch. Contributions may be sent to The “Peggy Martin
Survivor Rose” fund:The Greater Houston Community
Foundation, 4550 Post Oak Place Suite 100, Houston, TX 77027-3143,
Contact is Mr. Bob Paddock (713) 333-2200.
This is going to be fun! A great rose and a great cause.
This is a hard combination to beat! I am fully convinced
that the resilience and fortitude of our friends and neighbors
in New Orleans, Beaumont and Mississippi is matched by the
beauty and toughness of the “Peggy Martin” rose.
The ‘Peggy Martin’ rose is a beautiful symbol
of survival on the Gulf Coast. Please join us in this celebration.
Current List of Cooperating Growers for the “Peggy
Antique Rose Emporium
9300 Lueckmeyer Road
Brenham, TX 77833
Chamblee’s Rose Nursery
10926 US Hwy 69 North
Tyler, TX 75706
Petals from the Past Nursery
16034 County Rd. 29
Jemison, AL 35085
Hwy 84 East,
12082 Hwy 59N
Nacogdoches, TX 75965