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Stowe Center's Rose Gardens Win National Award

Garden Club Of America Honors Outstanding Community Rose Gardens Of Educational Value

Nancy Schoeffler

May 28, 2010

Roses must have meant a great deal to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In one poem she describes the wild rose as "the constant love that fears not pain nor sorrow."

But Stowe was a passionate gardener who also cultivated roses at her home on Forest Street in Hartford.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center's research and re-creation of the historic landscape of Stowe's Victorian gardens recently earned the Jane Righter Rose Medal from the Garden Club of America.

The poem Stowe wrote accompanied a wedding gift she gave to a friend a painting of a floral bouquet depicting roses, daisies and wildflowers, which is now on exhibit in her home, Nora Howard of the Garden Club of Hartford noted in nominating the Stowe Center for the award.

Howard also said two antique rose borders welcome visitors up the path to the Stowe Center's headquarters. "Roses there include Cammileux roses, the large Tuscany superb roses (1848) of a startling crimson purple color, the medium pink Paul Neyron roses (1869) with blooms so full and large that they resemble peonies, and the rosa rugosa roses, which bloom all summer."

At one point Stowe gave orders to her daughter about transplanting some beloved roses, Howard wrote. She quoted Stowe: "I should like Joe to dig up the great rose bush by the front porch it is dear for many reasons. See that he digs a great way off and gets a long root or it will not live It has shaded us all even those no longer with us."

Because Stowe's home didn't become a museum until nearly 70 years after her death, most of her orginal plantings were lost, Christiana Gianopulos, the center's board chairman, said when she accepted the award earlier this month. The research and re-creation of Stowe's antique rose gardens were cited for "outstanding civic achievement in community rose gardens of educational value."

Gianopulos also said that Righter, who grew up in Pennsylvania and later lived in Greenwich, "knew of the famous author and sent her notes, gifts and Christmas cards." Between 1887 and 1892, Stowe sent three letters in reply to Righter, who was then age 9 to 14. In one she wrote that the pictures the girl had sent "are all past praise I delight in them." Stowe signed one of her letters: "Your very affectionate though unknown friend."

Katherine Kane, the Stowe Center's executive director, said, "We were surprised and pleased to find that Jane Righter herself was an admirer of Harriet Beecher Stowe and, as a child, corresponded with Stowe. We believe they would each be pleased at this renewed association."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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