In January, 2012, a dear friend brought me a thornless, climbing rose at a local garden center here In Dothan.  I had been feeling a little blue as the second anniversary of my Mother’s death had come, and she felt that a rose would be the ideal memorial gift because of my Mother’s celebrated rose garden.  She apologized for its diminutive size, but said that the proprietor of the nursery stated that it would quickly mature and grow vigorously on a fence or arbor.  The tag stated that it was a Peggy Martin rose, and my friend, Thelmanne, marveled that it was known as the rose that had survived Katrina!  I quickly started doing some research to learn more about this now infamous rose..

Peggy martin rose

(Image courtesy of Southern Living Magazine)

Peggy Martin had been a prominent member of the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society for many years prior to Katrina, and had over 450 roses in her garden.  For years she had lovingly created a magnificent garden consisting of many old garden roses.  In 1989, Peggy had collected a specimen of a thornless climber from a friend in New Orleans.  She was overcome by its beauty:  “It took my breath away!  I had never seen a rose so lushly beautiful with thornless bright green foliage that was disease free.  All along the canes there were clusters of roses that resembled perfect nosegays of blooms”.  (from an interview with Dr. Bill Welch *)

This past May, I became acquainted with Chris Van Cleave’s rose blog, the Redneck Rosarian.  He is a renown rose expert who resides in the Birmingham area, does a weekly rose talk show, and has a magnificent rose garden to boot!    One of my favorite features on his blog are  the guided tours he occasionally does on what is currently blooming in his illustrious  rose garden.  Last Sunday he did a blog post on Peggy Martin and her incredible rose.  You can read this inspirational story and hear her podcast on Rose Talk Radio here:


Peggy not only lost her beloved roses and her home in the storm, but she also suffered an even more profound loss:  the death of her elderly parents who had chosen not to evacuate.  Her husband’s commercial fishing boat was also destroyed.  She recounts the despair and indescribable grief that followed for months following Katrina.  However, when she was finally able to return to her home, she realized that her thornless climber had survived and was one of two surviving plants in her garden.  After two weeks, this remarkable rose had survived under 20 feet of salt water!

I planted my Peggy Martin rose in February of 2012 in a sunny location on the fence near a gate that leads to our backyard.  I was amazed that by May there were a few tiny blooms, and that it  had actually grown a couple of feet.  This year, the rose has reached a height of 6 feet and had even more blooms than last year! These were photographed in late April and May, 2013.


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I photographed these stunning pictures in Mary Beth Davis’ garden in mid-May while there to do a tablescape demonstration for her Bible study group.   I was literally in awe of the gorgeous clusters of pink roses cascading on almost every square inch of the charming  white picket fence of her cottage style garden.  She was unsure of the name of the rose.  Although I don’t profess to be an expert rosarian, It looked as if it could be the Peggy Martin rose.  After reading the the Red Neck Rosarian’s post last week, I emailed Chris Van Cleave a couple of the pictures to get his expert opinion.  This Master Rosarian graciously got back with me within a day or so, and had contacted none other than Peggy Martin herself!  She stated that there is only one other rose even close to Peggy Martin which is  Garden Director Otto Line.  “If it is thornless, on canes, and only has a slight prickle under the first leaves of the cluster then it is Peggy Martin”.  Mary Beth made the confirmation that it fits in the latter category!  So we are going with the Peggy Martin identification!

Feast your eyes on exquisite blooms from Mary Beth’s garden…

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Mary Beth is pictured below with a glass pedestal filled with the roses and leaf lettuce.


Check out Peggy Martin’s website for more information: http://peggymartinrose.com/

This Peggy Martin Rose is showcased in Peggy’s garden today.

The Garden Dairy

I have hopes that my Peggy Martin will one day look like the one picture above.  After listening to the Peggy’s Podcast on Rose Chat radio, here are a few tips for rose growing.  Even as far back as 30 years ago, she advocated organic fertilizing as she does to this day!

  1. The soil is key to effective gardening.  Composting adds good microbes and bacteria to the soil.
  2. Her “go to” rose garden fertilizers are:  alfalfa meal, fish meal (or bone meal if this is unavailable), and green sand
  3. Birds are encouraged to help “clean out the garden”.

This month I reflect back on the August anniversaries of two tropical storms that have brought grave devastation in my life time: the 8th anniversary of Katrina and the 44th anniversary of Hurricane Camille.  I can remember being a camper at Camp DeSoto in Mentone, Alabama during Camille realizing that many campers who lived on the Gulf Coast could suffer great loses while at camp.  While the vast majority of us will never lose everything in a storm as Peggy Martin and many others did,  “storms” are inevitable in all of our lives.  The Peggy Martin story is one of great faith, hope, perseverance, and encouragement.  Today this courageous lady  lives in a new home with an established garden again filled with hundreds of roses that nurture her hopes and dreams.  This lovely and charming lady has many life lessons to convey to us all.   Sometimes our periods of greatest growth happen in times of deepest despair.  God is truly the anchor in our life’s storms.

Don’t tell god how big your storm is…

Tell the storm how big your God is…  (author unknown)

* Texas A&M Professor and Landscape Horticulturist Dr. Bill Welch is credited with the Peggy Martin Rose’s propagation and distribution post Katrina.  Portions of the proceeds for the rose’s sale help fund the restoration of historical gardens that were devastated by Katrina. 




  1. Wow, that is one rose that is as tough as it is beautiful! I have admired your way with roses through this blog, and the story you’ve presented in this post about this lovely lady is so inspirational about dealing with personal tragedy and triumph. This may be the very rose to plant whenever I try growing roses — they usually begin swooning the second I even look at them. Beautiful post, Mary!

    • It appears that the Peggy Martin rose thrives in just about any area of the country. I am hoping mine will bloom again this fall. This particular rose does better in cooler temperatures. Thanks for your kind comments.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing Peggy’s story with your readers. It has certainly given me an opportunity to pause and count my many blessings despite the storms of life that swirl around me each day…..

  3. What a fabulous post, Mary Lise! You were truly given a gift. What a lovely rose! But, more, thank you for this story, the history, and the introduction of resources, too. When I lived in the Buffalo area, I pretty much steered away from roses as our neighborhood has such a problem with the Japanese Beetle – ugh! But, maybe I’ll live somewhere again where I can do a bit of rose gardening again. I shall sure check into your Peggy Martin variety. Thornless sound pretty appealing too. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Roses for my Mother’s Birthday | beautifulgardener

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