Loretta Bestpitch, curator of Mable Ringling’s rose garden at the Ringling Museum, on stopping and smelling the roses.
What is the garden’s history? The rose garden was the first thing on the property, placed so that when they built the house Mable Ringling could look out her window and see it. She founded the Sarasota Garden Club and had tea parties and friends over to visit in the garden.
What are your favorite reactions from visitors? When somebody’s really excited they’ll actually squeal and carry on for some time. One couple told me they had visited gardens all over the world and that ours was the most beautiful of them all.
Do you have a favorite rose? The Devoniensis. It’s pale pink, a good bloomer, and has the most wonderful fragrance.
Advice for aspiring rose gardeners? Most important is having the right plant in the right place and dealing with insect and fungus control. It takes time, patience and research—Google’s my best friend. And roses can’t get too much water, but they don’t want to stand in it; they want well-drained soil.
When is the best time to visit? Anytime in cooler weather. November through January is beautiful, but if we do a hard cutback then you have four to six weeks with no roses so they can get a fresh start. It’s very peaceful early in the morning. You can come out for solace, shut your eyes and listen to the birds, the insects, the cicadas.
Any big changes coming? The columns are going to be redone and we’re going to do in-depth cleanup and cutback. We’re hoping it’s going to look like the original photographs we’ve seen in time for the 100-year anniversary next year.
Number of roses in Mable ringling’s garden