Stop and Smell the Roses

The roses of Santa Clara are a defining feature of the campus. But, how did they get here? How have they played a role in Santa Clara history?

From the Mission Gardens to flower-lined paths to the wall of climbing roses encircling campus, they help define Santa Clara. Appreciate what is meaningful; these flowers thrive with attention and care—good reminders, both. The perfume they exhale in the cool morning—is that scent redolent of romance? The iridescent colors as afternoon light turns golden in the magic hours—did you ask for a hand in marriage with these flowers looking on? Stem and hip, cup and thorn, hundred-petaled heart—and symbol of the Virgin Mary: They’re resonant of the essential connection between truth and beauty, body and soul. Their fragrant history on campus goes back many decades—and includes a black-petaled rose, plus a dark crimson beauty called Santa Clara. There are tales of rosy mystery here. As for the future: What flowers and hopes do you want to nurture?

Meet me at the gate of the Rose Garden: the original Mission cemetery—then for years site of the student chapel. It was planted with roses after the Mission burned in 1926.

Meet me at the gate of the Rose Garden: the original Mission cemetery—then for years site of the student chapel. It was planted with roses after the Mission burned in 1926.

PADRE OF THE ROSES In 1939 renowned rosarian Fr. George M. A. Schoener arrived on campus. Pittsburgh-born, Swiss-raised, he cultivated some 5,000 rose plants. Santa Clara’s rose collection truly took root. He bred one 20 feet tall; another was almost black; one bloomed with multiple colors on a single flower—petals yellow on top, red beneath.

PADRE OF THE ROSES In 1939 renowned rosar- ian Fr. George M. A. Schoener arrived on campus. Pittsburgh-born, Swiss-raised, he cultivated some 5,000 rose plants. Santa Clara’s rose collection tru- ly took root. He bred one 20 feet tall; another was almost black; one bloomed with multiple colors on a single flower—petals yellow on top, red beneath.

What’s in a name? Roses on campus include Schoener’s Nutkana, Madame Butterfly, Rio Samba, Crimson Rambler, and Evangeline.

Vintage Image Perfume Bottle

SWEET PERFUME In 1895, as part of a planned perfume plant, seven acres of roses were planted along Saratoga Avenue in Santa Clara. Perfume production never took off, but the Santa Clara County Rose Society did—the second rose society in the West.

Tending more than 1,000 roses on campus takes time—and the work of many hands by gardeners who approach this work with reverence. They’re supervised by Chris Young, assistant director of building and grounds, at SCU for 30+ years.

Sketched in 1889, this rose lives the University Archives, tucked in Pedrina Pellerano’s autograph book. Her brother Nicholas Pellerano graduated in 1891.

DRAWN FROM HISTORY Sketched in 1889, this rose lives the University Archives, tucked in Pedrina Pellerano’s autograph book. Her brother Nicholas Pellerano graduated in 1891.

POLLINATOR AND EDUCATOR “We use the rose garden as a living lab for students to investigate evolution,” notes Associate Professor of Biology Justen Whittall.

POLLINATOR AND EDUCATOR “We use the rose garden as a living lab for students to investigate evolution,” notes Associate Professor of Biology Justen Whittall.

Botanist and horticulturalist George A. Gilbert, S.J., came to Santa Clara in 1930. He sought new and rare plants for the gardens—from paint brush to sea pink—and bred a Santa Clara Rose. Its color: dark crimson. Its fate: unknown. Rose detectives take note.

ROSE PAGEANT A scene from Portland, Oregon, where Fr. George Schoener began his rose hybridizations and, for festivals, shared his floral bounty by covering carriages— horsed and horseless alike—with flowers.

ROSE PAGEANT A scene from Portland, Oregon, where Fr. George Schoener began his rose hybridizations and, for festivals, shared his floral bounty by covering carriages— horsed and horseless alike—with flowers.

Rosa Moschata Abyssinica

ROSA MOSCHATA ABYSSINICA Adjacent to Ricard Observatory, the Ethiopian Rose scales a towering trellis and shades those seated on benches below. The rose’s blossoms are small, its legend large: Rumor is it was a gift from Emperor Haile Selassie—or an Ethiopian princess.

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