Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For the Love of Roses~ Huntington Off-Hours ~ Wedding Carrot Cake

Is there anything more romantic than a view framed by roses?

In the companionship of roses, my body may sway, but my soul holds still. A rose doesn't need to ask anything of me. I give to its garden willingly, for  I am flush with love. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Congregation (vs. 4-8), the Apostle describes what a great rose garden teaches, simply through its presence

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Tom Carruth is THE rosarian for the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Gardens Rose Collection. Before "retiring" to the Huntington, his illustrious career for Weeks Roses included creating more than 100 rose bybrids to beautify gardens and interiors. In just 14 years, 11 of his "progeny " were chosen as All-America  Rose Selections (AARS), an achievment  not matched by any other living hybridizer. 

'Cinco de Mayo' is one of  Tom's AARS winning roses.
In 2009, photographer Gene Sasse requested copy for 'Cinco de Mayo'. I wrote

Cinco de Mayo ™ stands out with the confidence of a woman who knows who she is and t afraid to show-off. This floribunda flaunts its flirty fiesta flowers. The colors of its petals swirl like the clouds of a thunderstorm at sunset. Russet reds, mellow lavenders: they layer and mingle like the colors of sunset on the Mexican Riviera just as brightness succumbs to seductive darkness. This is a rose which is the floral equivalent of Salma Hayek."

Image courtesy of Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Last spring, Pacific Horticulture published my article The Huntington Rose Garden~ Restoring a Gilded Beauty. Within the text, Tom shared his secret formula for show-stopping roses in a climate that seldom lets them rest. Each spring, new growth gets a kick-start with an application of granular Scott’s Natural Lawn Food. Now on a watering schedule reduced by 60 percent, the plants thirst is quenched in the early morning. What the plants do appreciate is a periodic foliar feeding. Tom recommends a “cocktail” he learned visiting Sacramento gardens under the care of T.J. David: a nutritious brew of Grow More Jump Start Plant Tonic and Seaweed Extract spiked with dissolvable mycorrhiza and nitrogen." 

'Flower Girl' rose spills from faux baux tree trunk
 There are no people in the pictures of one of the most popular gardens in the world. That is because, as a press-pass carrying journalist, security lets me through on days closed to the public. These photos are "behind the scenes" peaks at some of what we can learn to bring home to our home gardens.

Cimbing rose 'Golden Sun' climbs the trellis without over-powering it. 

Roses require respite to gather strength. Tom has interspersed bulbs as companions to delight visitors  during the winter break. Think of their role as like the opening act at a major concert. 

Our part of Southern California rarely has snow. But the blonde meadow registers a similar visual aura of easiness.

 The architectural majesty of these plants is set off by the negative space offered between specimens. 

The aptly named 'Celebration Garden' is a tapestry of color. The minimalistic linear water feature straddles modern and traditional, with grace. 

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' overflows the edges of a large urn.  It serves as a sentry to one of many seating areas.

Think diversity. Intensely planteds waths of color offer visual rhythm, discourages weeds and encourages pollinators. 

Always choose plants with significance. The first time I noticed hesperaloe parviflora  (Red Yucca) was on assignment for a cover story on the home of an anonymous billionaire in Sedona. I see this nearly carefree plant- and my heart skips a beat. I have some 'brakelights' variety just waiting for my garden helper's wrist to climb the back canyon where they will enchant from the distance.

In the parking lot  are stands of blooming Romneya Coulteri,( Matalija poppy).  A California native, the outsized flower, oft compared to fried ostrich eggs in appearace, when it is in bloom, it commands attention.

Two very lovely young women, one from San Diego, the other from Los Angeles had planned a day at the gardens. It is something hard for us in mild climates to imagine gardens not being open 24/7.  (I did the same thing in England. I showed up at the Gardens of the Rose one week before 10,000 roses were to burst in to bloom.) 

Image by Gene Sasse, who introduced me to Tom Carruth
For all Tom has done for me- his generous spirit - in my first baking adventure in ever so long, I took him a carrot cake from a family recipe. It really is GOOD. 

Carrot Wedding Cake

From Collection of Lydia Plunk
Makes Three 9” Cake Layers
Butter and flour (or use Parchment paper) Cake Pans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2 Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Nutmeg
2 Cups Sugar
Sift dry ingredients thoroughly.
Set aside.

1 ½ Cups Vegetable Oil
4 eggs
2 Cups Grated Carrots
8 Ounces Crushed Pineapple
½ Cups chopped Walnuts
Emulsify vegetable oil and eggs.
Mix in carrots, pineapple, and if desired, walnuts.
Make a well in dry ingredients.
Pour well blended wet ingredients into dry- gently turning until well blended.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Let cool for 10 minutes longer, then turn out.
When thoroughly cool, frost.
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ Cup Butter, softened
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 tsp Vanilla
Cream together
1 Box Powdered Sugar, sifted
Whip into cream cheese until fluffy
Half and Half (Small amount)
If necessary for a lighter consistency, add a Tblsp at a time

 My "Secrets"- Freshly ground spices are amazing. Use glazed walnuts instead of regular (throw more on side if you think not enough is just right).  If available, use fresh pineapple instead of canned. Golden raisins are sublime addition when adding walnuts to batter.

Until we meet again, Thank You for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful 



  1. The gardens are beautiful. I love the yellow climbing roses! Cake sounds fantastic! Drooling...... xo

  2. mmmmmm That carrot cake sounds delicious. My favorite.

    I love the Love scripture. Beautiful.

    The roses at The Huntington were gorgeous. When I went there with you for lunch in the Tea Room it didn't look like that! We were a bit too early also. At least I got to see "Pinkie" and "Blue Boy" again. :)

    Great job!

    XO Trisha


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