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I love this story and I would love to have this rose.Peggy Martin Rose
The Houston Chronicle
Before Hurricane Katrina, Peggy Martin's garden held 450 old roses and was one of the biggest collections in the South. One rose, a hardy variety whose origins are unknown, survived the storm.
Nick de la Torre: Chronicle
FINDING THE ROSE
Several nurseries are selling the 'Peggy Martin' rose. But be patient; supplies are limited, and there are waiting lists. Growers hope to have more available by the fall. One dollar from each sale will be donated to the Zone IX Horticulture Restoration Fund, established to rebuild green spaces in New Orleans, Beaumont and Laurel, Miss.
• Antique Rose Emporium, 9300 Lueckmeyer, Brenham, 800-441-0002; and 7561 E. Evans, San Antonio, 210-651-4565; http://www.antiqueroseemporium.com/
• Chamblee's Rose Nursery, 10926 U.S. 69 North, Tyler; 800-256-7673; http://www.chambleeroses.com/
• Petals from the Past Nursery, 16034 County Road 29, Jemison, Ala.; 205-646-0069;
• King's Nursery, U.S. 84 East, Tenaha; 936-248-3811
May 12, 2007, 10:59PM
2 years after Katrina, rose blooms as symbol of revival
It provides a ray of hope for Peggy Martin, who lost her home, her parents and her garden to the hurricane
By KATHY HUBER
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
PHOENIX, LA. — Peggy Martin had to steel herself against grief and dread the first time she returned to her Eden, a 12-acre family homestead that lay beneath a mat of dried, cracked marsh mud.
She had lost her parents to the storm surge Hurricane Katrina hurled on this tiny town in Plaquemines Parish. The home she and her husband had built 32 years before lay in salty ruin.
Her garden, once a paradise with 450 old roses, one of the most important collections in the South, was drowned in 20 feet of water.
But amid this gray destruction, when the waters drained, Martin found a survivor — a nameless old rose.
New life already was sprouting along the arching canes that once had hidden the tractor shed in an explosion of bright-pink blooms.
Today, the resilient old rose again blankets the shed in pink. It's easy to spot from the road that snakes past the homestead and follows the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico.
In stark contrast to the cheerful petals, a hand-painted sign posted on the gloomy shell of Peggy and M.J. Martin's former brick home reads, "Don't Touch." A half-buried shoe lies by the slab of her parents' house, which stood nearby for 54 years.
Why the rose lived when so much else died, Martin has no idea.
But it has become a fitting symbol of revival, another chapter in the story of an old bloomer whose name and origins remain a mystery.
A gentle spring breeze picks up its slight, musky scent. It reminds Martin of the fragrance of the hundreds of roses, jasmine and other flowers that once bloomed here.
"It smelled like heaven," the New Orleans native says quietly. "We called it God's country."
But it became their hell.
As Katrina boiled in the Gulf in August 2005, Martin was consumed with a familiar fear. Back in 1965, as a teenager in Arabi (a suburb of New Orleans), she'd stepped from bed into water brought by Hurricane Betsy and heard the baying distress of the family's beagles. Her family lost everything that year.
For Peggy and M.J., who married in 1969, evacuating hurricanes had become an almost annual ritual. Before Katrina, they'd fled 25 times — one year, they left three times.
But when Katrina threatened, Martin's parents, 82-year-old Rosalie and Pivon Dupuy, refused their daughter's pleas to leave.
Thirty-six hours before the storm hit, Martin returned to the homestead to beg once more. Her father held her hands in his. He refused to look her in the eyes. She knew he wouldn't budge.
Nor would he listen to the sheriff's department's urgent requests.
"Daddy told the deputy that Sunday night, 'Don't come again because we're going to sleep,'" Martin says.
Katrina swallowed Phoenix early Monday, Aug. 29.
"My daddy had faith in the levees," Martin says. "And they didn't break. Water went over them. They had to break the levee to get the water out."
The Dupuys drowned in the storm surge that poured over the 17-foot levees, unable to get to the johnboat they'd tied to the front porch. Two days later, deputies found their bodies floating close together in what was once their front yard.
When the waters drained, Martin returned to find her parents' home shoved from its foundation and broken. At her own home nearby, her bedroom was crushed by the 60-foot oak she had planted in the backyard. Remnants of other trees and shrubs in her once vast garden stood like black skeletons.
Gone, too, was the shrimp boat M.J. had used to supplement the family's income. His fishing friends were scattered by the storm.
The homestead had been a gathering place for fathers, mothers, grandparents and children.
"I met my husband down there. His family was one of the founding families of the parish," Martin says. "It makes you sick — physically and mentally — the scope of it. I have always loved the place. It is so nostalgic to me."
Yet there, rising from the mud, was the hardy old rose.
"It was a miracle that it could survive nearly two weeks in 20 feet of saltwater," Martin says.
Before they had any inkling of the role the noble bloom would play in their daughter's life, Rosalie and Pivon Dupuy baptized her Peggy Rose.
"How prophetic is that?" Peggy laughs.
A bit Spanish, a bit French, she has her mother's brown eyes and dark, wavy, thick hair. Her father's mouth and nose. She speaks fondly of her parents, spinning family stories in Southern oral tradition, told with a rich New Orleans accent.
"I come from sweet people," she says, her voice growing quiet.
And they were strong.
Her father, a decorated World War II veteran, was a daredevil, a muscular John Wayne type, she says. After the war, he knew no fear.
Her mother, the more stern of the two as she raised two children, including a son, was refined and proper.
The Dupuys bought the 12 acres in Plaquemines Parish in 1951, a sliver of land surrounded by water and good for hunting, fishing and growing citrus. They built a camp here, 25 miles downriver from New Orleans, and settled into the small, historical community of Phoenix.
The town was first known as Fort Mississippi in 1699. It became St. Sophie when James Livingston built his plantation here in the 1800s. When that plantation burned, Livingston rebuilt and renamed the place Phoenix.
Family members were drawn to the Dupuys' camp for long visits, good food and good company in the isolated quiet.
Peggy and M.J. built their house next to her parents' and stayed there 32 years. They raised two sons. Peggy planted oaks, azaleas, camellias, day lilies and every color of iris imaginable.
She had never forgotten the fragrance of her grandmother's rose garden, so Martin surrounded her home with hundreds of sweet bloomers. She was especially fascinated with heirloom roses, disease-resistant bloomers passed along for generations.
The rose she planted by the tractor shed in 1989 was a cutting taken from her hairdresser's garden in New Orleans. Smitten with its blooms, Martin soon began sharing cuttings with other rose enthusiasts, hoping to identify the impressive repeat bloomer.
The vigorous climber languished across the four bays of the tractor shed, smothering the structure in pink blooms so spectacular neighbors would turn their lawn chairs to take it all in.
Martin was always an organic gardener, so her interest in disease-resistant roses grew.
She joined the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society in 1997 to learn more. A year later her garden became a frequent stop on rose tours.
"I was on a crusade to get every old rose," she says. "I wanted every one, every color."
The Martins lived with relatives those first weeks after the storm, moving like nomads from house to house as electricity was restored.
Like hundreds of other Katrina victims they settled in Gonzales, 55 miles up the road from New Orleans. A year ago they moved into their own comfortable home in a new neighborhood, one of a rash spawned by the storm.
The Martins like their home, which looks slightly French. They also like their neighbors. But they don't expect to stay here forever. They talk about building a larger house and garden.
Martin says she won't move back to the old homestead. But she can't quite let it go.
Each trip back home, as she still calls it, is a little easier to make. Recently it crossed her mind it could be a weekend place.
"Before I dreaded it. But now it helps to go back," she says. "My feelings are very ambivalent."
She doesn't have to make any decisions right away. She'll wait to see what government assistance funds come her way.
And how much she heals.
"For three months after Katrina, I accomplished nothing," Martin says. "I just cried."
She's salvaged little from the homestead. Bits of her grandmother's china. A few pieces of her mother's jewelry. Scraps of wood M.J. has incorporated into a fence.
And the rose.
The inspirational old climber thrives in her new garden in Gonzales. Once again, Martin is amazed at how quickly cuttings from the homestead plant have flourished, their graceful canes nodding with perfect nosegays of pink blooms.
Experts think it may have originated in Germany. Many gardeners confuse it with 'Seven Sisters,' Martin says, but unlike that old rose, this is a repeat bloomer with a slightly musky fragrance.
"It's a great rose to train as a climber to cover a garage or a large arbor and to plant where children play because it has no thorns."
The old climber grows among 150 other roses recently given to Martin. She finds solace in the new garden.
"It keeps me occupied," she says. "It's been a happy thing amongst a lot of sadness. It warms my heart."
Every rose is given a name when it's created. But over centuries many beloved plants have dropped from commerce, their names forgotten, as new varieties have become more fashionable.
Since the late 1970s, rosarians have rediscovered many of these lost treasures on abandoned homesteads and in cemeteries. When they can't identify an antique rose, they give it a "study" name. Such is the case with the mysterious Phoenix rose.
Now a vibrant symbol of survival and rebirth along the storm-shattered Gulf Coast, it's become more than a pass-along plant. It's now called 'Peggy Martin.'
The idea for the name came from Texas A&M University horticulturist William Welch. Even before the storm he thought this old rose should be more widely available.
Cuttings he'd taken in Martin's Phoenix garden bloom profusely at his place in Washington County.
When he heard of his friends' losses, he enlisted the help of nurserymen to propagate 'Peggy Martin' as a restoration project. The growers agreed to donate $1 from the sale of each rose to rebuild green spaces in New Orleans, Beaumont and Laurel, Miss.
Martin is proud the rose now bears her name. Yet like a true rosarian, she won't rest until she knows its origin.
"I have loved it for many years," she says, admiring a lush cluster of pink blooms. "It's been a wonderful thing in my life, and I'm going to find out what it is."
I shouldn't have read this thread because I want one now too. Not only is it beautiful, but I'm in awe how this rose managed to survive despite the circumstances when all of the others didn't.
I remember wanting one too when I read this article. Please let us know here in this thread if you locate a supplier.
The links that were previously mentioned at the start of this thread all sell this rose in one gallon pot sizes. Prices vary though - Chamblee's $8.95, Petals From the Past $15.00, and Antique Rose Emporium $18.95. As with the current norm shipping is calculated by zip code.
I've never dealt with any of these places before so I looked up the reviews. I didn't read anything that would raise a big red flag with me personally, but of course that is only my personal interpretation.
The photos I viewed shows this rose cascading beautifully over a fence and I don't have a fence for it. lol That doesn't mean I won't buy one for a section of my yard though.
Thanks so much for that very through report. I had forgotten how good you are with research. I may just order one in the spring. I will look over my yard and try to figure just the right place for it.