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DISPATCH: SIERRA MADRE

Pocketful of roses

Wandering through a florist's lush backyard.

October 11, 2008|Deborah Netburn | Times Staff Writer

ABOUT 25 years ago florist Jacob Maarse installed a rose garden in his yard for his wife Clara's birthday. He ordered 100 bushes -- mostly of the Mister Lincoln variety, because Mrs. Maarse is partial to red -- and planted them along the back perimeter of his house. She was delighted, and the roses thrived in the Sierra Madre sun.

Then a bowl of those garden roses made it to Jacob Maarse Florists, his Pasadena shop, and customers caught a whiff of what real homegrown roses smell like. Suddenly those long-stemmed hot-house flowers that fill so many Southern California stores weren't good enough. Customers wanted those fragrant, many-petaled garden roses.

Maarse tried to find a supplier but couldn't. The trouble is those roses are delicate and have to be picked after the budding stage, making them difficult to transport. Because they must be raised outdoors, not in a hot house, they're vulnerable to red spiders, aphids, windstorms and hail.

So now Maarse grows his own, and his 3-acre property is covered with about 3,500 rose bushes blooming eight months a year. In April and May, during the height of cutting season, his staff hauls 80 buckets -- about 1,000 stems -- into the store. Although Clara is largely in charge of ordering the bushes, the garden is dominated by Jacob's favorites: the hot-pink Yves Piaget ("To me the best-smelling rose," he says); and the sometimes green, sometimes yellow St. Patrick, a sturdy bloom that Maarse says can last up to 10 days in the vase.

There are hazards, of course, to having so many roses. The lawn has shrunk. The tennis court is in danger of being taken over by the ever-expanding rose beds. And a pretty, white iron bench under an arbor has gone almost completely unused.

"My wife and I put that in and thought we'll have tea there in the afternoon," Maarse says. "We've probably had tea three times there in the last 10 years. We're rosarians. Who has time for tea?"

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To see a photo gallery from Maarse's garden, go to latimes.com/home.

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