Dream Drives: Rare Roses Bloom At Wyck In Germantown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Until mid-June, the nation’s oldest rose garden still in its original planting is in bloom at Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm in Germantown.

“This property had been in the same family for nine generations from 1690 until 1973,” said Wyck executive director Jennifer Carlson.

The property is steeped in history. Former owner Reuben Haines III hobnobbed with people like Thomas Jefferson. Famous Philadelphia architect William Strickland redesigned the Wyck house in 1824, adding a coal fireplace that was very innovative for the time.

“Reuben Haines was very interested in natural science and horticulture,” Carlson said. “He had a whole room of curiosities on the second floor, shells and fossils and herbs and flowers.” Those curiosities are now displayed on the first floor.

The Wyck Rose Garden was created by Reuben’s wife, Jane. Martha Keen is Wyck’s horticulturist and keeps the growing going.

CBS3’s Meisha Johnson said, “The minute we walked out of that home, it just hits you as if it’s perfume.”

“This is basically a living repository of old garden varieties of roses that you’re not apt to see basically anywhere else, basically in what is the oldest rose garden in the United States,” Keen said. “It dates back to 1824, and in this garden we have over 50 cultivars, many of which are now totally extinct from the nursery trade.”

Some of the cultivars might have been lost forever had they not been preserved at the Wyck Rose Garden. The Elegant Gallica, a pale pink rose, was believed to be extinct until being rediscovered here in the early 1970s.

Researchers also found the Lafayette rose, named after America’s favorite fighting Frenchman after he visited Wyck in 1825. “It’s really special for being this deep, plum-y, magenta color,” Keen said.

There is still time to enjoy the Wyck Rose Garden in 2017. “The bloom starts at maybe the beginning of May and lasts until the middle of June, so there’s definitely still time to come out and experience this intoxicating fragrance,” Keen said.

Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm is at 6026 Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. It is open to walk-in visitors on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from noon until 4:00pm. Tours can be scheduled by calling (215) 848-1690 or emailing info@wyck.org.

You can find out more about the entire venue at http://wyck.org and read about the history of the Wyck Rose Garden at  http://wyck.org/home/rose-garden/.

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