Musk rose at Burwell School historic site/Photos

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A few years ago I got interested in Rosa moschata and began reading about its history in the US and elsewhere. You can imagine my pleasant surprise to find that one of the “discoveries” of this rose in the US was in Hillsborough, NC – a town near and dear to my heart and only 10 miles from my childhood home. My husband and I were in the area last week to pack up and close on my Mom’s house and took a few minutes to stop in Hillsborough to visit the site of the rose, the Burwell School Historic Site. When we got there, the sign read CLOSED (all museums are closed in NC right now, for obvious reasons). My husband, knowing how badly I wanted to see the rose in person, said, “Even though the buildings are closed, surely they won’t mind if we walk around the grounds.” I shouted, “I agree” and bounded out of the rental car towards the rose. Most of the bloom clusters were spent, but there were a few more recent blooms and they indeed had that wonderful (to me) smell – albeit mild - that I was hoping for. What a treat! I am planning to purchase and plant Rosa moschata in the single form this fall.

[As an aside, the Burwell School Historic Site is the place where Elizabeth Keckley, an enslaved teenager who later became the dressmaker and confidant of Mary Todd Lincoln, lived for several years. There is much information about her on the web site that you might be interested in reading.]

Hillsborough is an old colonial town – one of NC’s oldest – and is filled with gems. To name just a few, there’s Montrose Gardens (a Garden Conservancy site), the Colonial Inn, and the wonderful little independent bookstore Purple Crow Books. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend a quick stop. Please forgive my tarheel pride but it really is a lovely place.

I took some photos to share with those of y’all that might be interested. Also, here’s a statement about the rose taken from the Burwell School web site: The Musk Rose (Rosa Moschata) growing on a shaved - cedar arch …is a descendant of a shrub found growing and blooming on the property in the 1970's by rosarian Helen Blake Watkins. Mrs. Watkins, whose own heirloom rose garden in Hillsborough was featured in Life Magazine, conducted a horticultural inventory of the property in the 1970's and made a startling discovery - a small, fragrant white rose that she correctly identified as Rosa moschata, a rose thought to have been lost to the horticultural world…

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