There was a long list of things I should have been doing today--at my desk, in my house, and in the garden. I didn't do any of them. Instead, I hit the road with three friends--Linda, Julie, and Elizabeth--and we headed an hour and a half north to the wine country to visit the Russian River Rose Company for a perfume rose harvest tour.
This family-run nursery in Healdsburg has more than 600 varieties of new and old roses. In the midst of fields of Chardonnay grapes, they have display gardens that include some of the most gorgeous roses imaginable. We wandered along, sniffing and admiring, under a long, old-style rose allee. Climbers, floribundas, tea roses--they have it all.
Our tour began in their old barn with a short introduction to the three types of roses we'd be harvesting: Rose de Rescht, Kazanilk, and Ulrich Brunner. We then took our baskets and headed out to the fields. We picked all three kinds of the roses, filling the baskets to overflowing with the fragrant blooms. (This is Linda displaying her bounty.) The scents ran from spicy to sweet and our fingers became sticky with pollen and nectar.
When the baskets were full, we returned to the barn and transferred the blossoms into the large copper kettle used to distill the roses into rose water. While the kettle was brought to a boil we drank tea and nibbled tiny custard tarts and listened to a brief history of the processes of distilling essential oils and perfume making.
And then came what may have been the best part: shopping! Wandering up and down the rows of miniature roses, rambling roses, old-fashioned roses, and every other kind of rose you could think of, I was in danger of going into sensory overload. But in the end I found the perfect rose to bring home with me, a rose that was discovered and named by the folks at the Russian River Rose Co. themselves--a stunning rosy red climber called Rachael's Smile. A great remembrance of a day with all the right elements: friends, fun, and flowers.