Why You Must Know About the Rose That Survived Katrina
"She's just a good girl," says Texas gardener Ruthie Burrus. "She's a rambler and can be very aggressive, but she has no thorns. She's not a cutting rose, either—but from a distance, she's just stunning."
"She" is the classic old Southern rose "Peggy Martin," named for an avid Louisiana gardener whose home and property stood under 20 feet of salt water for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The only plants to survive were one crinum and a tough-as-nails beauty of a rose that Martin had acquired through pass-along cuttings from friends in New Orleans.
Before the storm, author and Texas A&M professor Dr. William C. Welch had visited Martin, who gave him some cuttings of the graceful, hardy climber with no name. After Katrina, he and six growers worked together to make the rose—which they named "Peggy Martin"—widely available. For some time after the storm, $1 from the sale of each rose helped fund garden-restoration projects in New Orleans and Beaumont, Texas, as well as a Mississippi Gulf Coast garden.
Burrus gave her beloved "Peggy Martin" rose a fitting home—draping what she calls her "garden haus." When she and her husband bought their Austin, Texas, property and moved here, they wanted to add some older-looking structures for character and interest. "I found some arched doors at an antiques store, and we used rocks from our property to build the garden haus around those doors," Burrus explains. "Then we found old windows and a tin roof. It looks like Hansel and Gretel should live there, but it's actually filled with rakes, shovels, and gloves."
Getting to Know "Peggy Martin"
Is she difficult? "I just put a lot of compost in the bed and maybe add some organic rose food," Burrus says. "I've never had any issues with any kind of blight or bugs. Peggy's a low-maintenance girl."
Can she be trained? Yes! How do you turn a garden shed into a pink rosebush? "Try to keep the vigorous main canes as horizontal as possible so that the clusters of blooms stemming from them will fill high and low spaces," Burrus advises. "I've trained Peggy so she snakes up the sides of my garden haus walls in kind of an "S" pattern."
Grow Your Own "Peggy Martin"
She can thrive anywhere in the South. Some of the original growers who were there for Peggy's debut are helping spread the word: The Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas; Chamblee's Rose Nursery in Tyler, Texas; King's Nursery in Tenaha, Texas (936/248-3811); and Petals from the Past in Jemison, Alabama.