A Rose Museum?

Not far from where I live, in a little market town, there is a shop/gallery for sale with plenty of living accommodation and a garden too. Regardless of financial issues am I courageous enough and do I have sufficient energy to open a long dreamed about museum?

Painting of Jules Gravereaux
A painting of Jules Gravereaux which was hung in his museum.

Of course I could not aspire to the dizzy heights of the numerous and beautiful artefacts gathered together by Jules Gravereaux at the end of the twentieth century at La Roseraie de l’Hay near Paris but perhaps I could work towards the more compact and personal “House of Roses” that was lovingly collected by Jean Gordon in the 1960’s in the small town of Augustine in Florida. These two museums and the recently opened Rose Museum in Beijing are the only permanent ‘monuments’ to the rose of which I am aware. Please tell me if you know of others.

Rose Garden, France
Illustration taken from a magazine ‘L’illustration’ (1907) found in the depths of France. The article is entitled ‘Le Paradis Des Roses’ and tells the story of the gardens at Roseraie de l’Hay.

The Roses in the gardens of La Roseraie de l’Hay must be coming into full bloom at this time and looking beautiful. It was the ambition of Jules Gravereaux, on his retirement from the Bon Marche department store to indulge his passion for roses. In 1892 he bought the property at l’Hay and began his magnificent collection of roses by contacting collectors at the botanical gardens all over the world. As his collection outgrew its allotted space a landscape architect, Edouard Andre was commissioned to design a special rose garden. As well as being able to boast a vast collection of roses Jules Gravereaux also wanted to display them in as many ways as possible to maximum effect. With his variety of arches, pergolas, tunnels and trellises he succeeded and achieved one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.

Drawing of portico at L'Hays rosery
A drawing showing some of the structures.

By 1900 M.Gravereaux had amassed approximately 3,000 different roses with this number growing to 8,000 in 1906. 500 of these were species roses which he called his ‘Collection Botanique’. The varieties i.e. the cultivated roses were his ‘Collection Horticole’. I am lucky to have in my library a Catalogue entitled Roseraie de l’Hay and dated 1900 listing the 3,000 species and varieties he had collected by this time. This little Catalogue also has many black and white photographs of the gardens showing the beautiful structures many of which still exist today.

Catalogue of rosery l'Hay France
A page from the Catalogue.

As the garden grew so did his collection of rose artefacts. His house as well as his garden was full of roses asa well as images of roses. He had an office and laboratory housed in a building in the centre of the rose garden where he also kept an ever increasing collection of books, drawings, paintings, scultures, textiles, pottery and porcelain, stamps and coins. How tremendous it must have been to see this collection in its day but sadly it is no longer as the majority was stolen in 1980. Fortunately there survives a list ‘La Rose Dans Les Sciences Dans Les Lettres Et Dans Les Arts’ (1906) which catalogues the amazing collection. I have to satisfy myself with a reprint; an original must be extremely rare.

The Rose Museum at Roseraie de l'Hay
The Rose Museum at Roseraie de l’Hay.

Jean Gordon’s Museum in St Augustine, on the other hand, has been reopened I understand. Jean, author and rose historian, founded the “House of Roses” in 1956 and ran it from her home until 1966. It was only after her second marriage and widowhood that she began to write about rosesand to collect a vast array of rose memorabilia. She wrote several books dedicated to the rose including ‘Immortal Roses’ (1959) where I read about the existence of her rose museum, ‘Pageant of the Rose’ (1953) and ‘The art of Cooking with Roses’ (1968).

Inside the rose museum
Inside the Museum at Roseraie de l’Hay (taken from an old postcard in my collection.

“To mention a few of the displays there are: stamps incorporating a rose design from many nations, English coins showing the Tudor Rose, desert or rock roses, a gold metal rose from France and a spray of wrought iron roses from Germany, and antique rose-shaped butter molds. In addition, there are six complete exhibits featuring the Rose in Symbolism, Religion, the Orient, England, France and America. Wall panels display pictures that show the use of the rose in medicine, art, music; the fascinating genealogy of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose, and rose fossils estimated to be 35 million years old.”

Taken from ‘Immortal Roses’ by Jean Gordon.
100 Rose Stories

Jean Gordon’s Rose books are in The Rosarian Library and I gain inspiration from them regularly. There must be other museums like hers that have been in existence or continue to be in existence now. Please tell me about them.

I know little about the Rose Museum in Bejing apart from it was completed in 2016 and opened on the day of the World Federation of Rose Societies Convention held in Beijing. It is huge covering an area of 30,000 square metres and is made from stainless steel complete with perforated rose designs. A number of displays are dedicated to the history of the rose and rose breeding. Although I am piqued that it is heralded as the world’s first rose museum; I feel that accolade should go to Jules Gravereaux and his wonderful collection, I would very much like to make a visit!

Whether I will open my own museum or not I am not sure; watch this space. . . . .

Also watch out for the July issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’!

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