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April 2009

Sacramento Cemetery – Gravestones and Roses


While on a photo search for the previous post, about the Open Garden at the Sacramento Old City Cemetery, I came across this gravestone picture. There are many children’s gravestones at the cemetery and they are all very touching. This one for Willie is about the size of a piece of typing paper. There weren’t even roses near it, but I was compelled to take a picture.

When I saw the Willie photo again, two books I’d just read about Abraham Lincoln rushed forward and begged a mention – funny how that happens. I was reading the books because of President Obama’s interest in Lincoln.

Lincoln-books      The Lincoln's: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein and Mr. Lincoln's Wars by Adam Braver.

Many of you may know that the Lincoln’s had a beloved son named Willie who died of a typhoid-like disease at age 12. In both books, I was captivated by the love surrounding Willie. Julia Taft, who sometimes oversaw his play with her brothers, described Willie as "the most lovable boy I ever knew, bright, sensible, sweet-tempered with a gentle-manner." For a moving biography of Willie, click here.

More Headstones from The Sacramento Old City Cemetery

Sacramento-cemetery        The Gallica 'Complicata'.

Lambs were a popular image associated with children, and are seen on a number of headstones at the cemetery. Anita Clevenger told me that the hand shaking symbol means, "We shall meet again."

Sacramento-old-city-cemetery-gravesites       The Hybrid Musk, 'Buff Beauty', and 'Pink Mermaid', a Large-Flowered Climber (repeat blooming) grow together.

The cemetery attracts many historians and researchers.
For those interested, there is a 1849-2000 burial list available in pdf format from the cemetery’s website. And there is even a compilation of detailed biographies “about famous, infamous and just plain extraordinary residents” of the cemetery. The dark gray headstone in the picture above belonged to Mr. Wick, who was Sacramento's first documented undertaker. 

Sacramento-old-city-cemetery-grave        'Blush Noisette' a Noisette rose.

Sarah J. Underhill isn’t on the biography list, but she has a nice simple headstone, with an even nicer rose growing next to it.


Simpler still, Mary E. Lewis has what almost looks like a doormat. Originally many headstones in the cemetery were wooden. When the the wood disintigrated, they'd often replace them with plain tablets like this one.

In concluding this piece, I'd like to mention that I just noticed that Willie Lincoln was born in 1850, right around the time the Sacramento Cemetery was opened. It's amazing how we can step back in time in this lovely cemetery and yet be firmly rooted in the present.The roses displayed here are so timeless and, to me, down right modern in their appropriateness for gardens today.

Rose of the Week – Manchester Guardian Angel


I had to have 'Manchester Guardian Angel' when I saw how vigorously it had grown in a friend’s garden, after only one year. It wasn’t until later that I found out about its interesting California heritage.

Manchester-guardian-angel-relief Pamela Temple created this releif by casting the face on the original marble sculpture, in the Manchester cemetary.

In 1980, Joyce and Virginia Demits discovered the rose flourishing near an aged marble statue of an angel at the Evergreen Cemetery, in the village of Manchester. Founded in 1857, on the Mendecino coast, the little town today has a population of 350. Joyce named and sold the rose as ‘Manchester Guardian Angel’.

Amazingly the rose was discovered two more times by two more people, in two completely different cemeteries, and ended up in the market place with three different names! 

Manchester-guardian-angel-at-my-house 'Manchester Guardian Angel' grows along our front walkway, on a lattice fence made of 2x2 redwood.

Three separate introductions into the market couldn't be a better endorsement for a rose. The blooms have a rich fruity fragrance, leaves are dark green, and thorns are plentiful and sharp. The first bloom is glorious, but its repeats are fabulous as well.


Here’s a look at the rose in the garden of Gregg Lowery and Philip Robinson. That fence is eight feet-high or more. This nice lady posed for me to give a sense of scale. Sorry, I don’t know her name.


With so many panicles (branched clusters of flowers), it’s fun to fill my hand with stems, and then tie or wire them together, before placing them in a vase. This allows the flowers to spill over the edge, but not fall out.

Manchester-guardian-angel-posey        Here you can see the twist of wire I used to hold the stems together.   



Rose Purchasing – Bands Part 2

The first time I saw roses sold in bands (a pot 3-inches square by 6-inches long), I was nervous and wondered how I’d deal with such small plants in my garden.


Above are five band roses after they were unpacked from their shipping box.

I got used to bands fast. If I wanted unique, unusual and historic roses, I had to hop on the bandwagon (sorry, I couldn’t help it), because mail order nurseries often ship bands.

I don’t usually plant band roses directly into the ground. Our California climate is too dry for keeping fragile developing roots damp. I repot the small plants into gallons for a few months. This allows the root ball to mature.

Bands-after      Here are the same roses shown above after growing in gallons for a couple months.

Aside from stature and immediate repotting, there are great advantages to bands.


1.    The roses are on their own roots.
2.    No suckers.
3.    Smaller planting holes.
4.    They’re easier to dig up and move––at least before they get too big.
5.    The shrub has a sturdy footing––there’s no tilt from wobbly bud stock.
6.    Bands are less expensive for specialty nurseries to grow, as well as ship.

Impatience foils many a rose purchaser when they first see how small a band rose is. They think a year, or two, or three seems too long to wait for the rose to mature. In gardening years, that’s not so long. Seasons fly by in a garden, and before you know it your band rose is a robust bloom producer. Yes, some take off faster than others – let me introduce you to a one-year wonder.

Manchester Guardian Angel


I purchased this rose as a band from, and planted it on our six-foot high deer fence. After the end of only one season, the rose had reached the top of the fence!

If you want to know more about 'Manchester Guardian Angel', stay tuned, It's the next "Rose of the Week."