Peggy Martin shares how 'found rose' came to be named after her – The Town Talk

Before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the Peggy Martin Rose was a “found rose,” meaning it had no name and its origins unknown.
Peggy Martin of Gonzales, for whom the rose is named, was the guest speaker at the Alexandria Garden Club meeting held at the Jewish Temple. She spoke on “Old Roses and their Remarkable History” and on her namesake rose, the Peggy Martin. She is the president of the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society, treasurer and board member of the Heritage Rose Foundation, a member of the American Rose Center Committee and is the American Rose Society Gulf District Director.
The Peggy Martin Rose, said Martin, is an aggressive rambler with no thorns.
Martin and her husband M.J. are originally from Phoenix in Plaquemine Parish near New Orleans where they lived for 36 years before Hurricane Katrina destroyed their property. Her parents who also lived on the property drowned in the flooding caused by waters that overtook the levees.
“We had a huge garden that I started there in 1974 after we built our home,” Martin told the club members. Because she had a “clean slate” around the house, she started planting azaleas, camellias daylilies, irises and other kinds of plants.
But it wasn’t until the 1990s that she got into roses. In 1989, her hairdresser gave her a cutting of a “found rose.”
“Her mother-in-law gave it to her,” Martin said. “And it was from an old garden in Uptown off St. Charles (Avenue). She didn’t know what the name was and they didn’t either.”
So for many years, the rose was classified as a “found rose.”
Martin planted the cutting in front of a 4-bay shed on their 12-acre property to hide it from the prettier parts of the garden.
“And it grew up to the top of it and all the way across,” she said. “It was 30 feet back and 40 feet across. And it covered that entire roof by the time Katrina came.”
She had many experts from all over the world, many of them speakers at her garden club in New Orleans, come to her house to try and identify the rose. Among them was Dr. William Welch, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M University, who also took cuttings.
“Dr. Welch, he was impressed with the rose and he took cuttings,” she said. “And he called me not too long before Katrina and said, ‘Peggy, this rose is too beautiful not to be in commerce. We need to find out the history.'”
She told him the history was gone, unknown and will never be found. The hairdresser’s mother-in-law had passed away and she did not know the name of the rose.
Then, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit. Martin and her husband had evacuated but sadly, Martin’s parents did not want to evacuate and drowned. Both were 82 and married for 63 years. 
The loss of her parents shocked and devastated Martin. She and her husband didn’t visit the property for months. But when they finally did, they saw the big, dark green stems of the “found rose.” The rose had survived being covered in saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico.
“So walking through that devastation, I get there and look at that and I say, ‘My God! How did this survive?’,” she said.
She took it as a sign.
“In my heart, I knew why it survived,” said Martin.
She also knew she was never going to see the house or garden again. She couldn’t live there after what happened to her parents. The Martins sold the property and she hasn’t been back since.
Welch found out that Martin’s garden was lost to Katrina but was surprised to learn that the “found rose” survived. He felt something needed to be done to preserve it and that’s when the Garden Club of America got involved starting a restoration fund that garnered thousands of dollars.
As part of the restoration work, workers from Chamblee’s Nursery climbed on the corrugated roof of the shed to take out the roses.
Big oak trees surrounded the shed and through the years, the fallen leaves had created a compost where the roses grew.
Long pieces of the root system were growing in the ridges.
“So it just goes to show you the root system that this thing puts in,” she said.
In reality, said Martin, it is a very strong rose. It can survive drought and take an enormous amount of water. It can also survive in all kinds of temperatures. She knows people in New York who have the rose and it survived minus 10 degrees temperatures. 
“It’s not just a Southern rose,” she said. “It’s a very, very strong rose.”
The Martins moved to Gonzales and it was there in 2006 that she found a 93-year-old lady who had roses blooming along the length of the fence surrounding her yard. Martin and her husband were driving by when she spotted the “found rose.”
“I stopped and asked if I could see the rose,” said Martin.
She felt the rose and it had no thorns and she knew immediately what it was.
After all these years, Martin was hopeful that she was going to finally find out the name of the rose. But unfortunately, the lady didn’t know what it was called though she said her late mother thought it might have been a Seven Sisters Rose. The lady said she got the cutting when she got married over 50 years before. Her mother’s rose, she said, had been living for over 100 years.
“It just tells you about the longevity of this thing,” said Martin.
One night, Martin received a call from Welch whose wife was dying of cancer.
He told her, “Peggy, something told me to name the rose Peggy Martin.”
“I know in my heart who told him that,” said Martin.
He asked her if she agreed with his decision and she told him she did and was honored.
Authors Nancy Rust and Carol Stubbs who wrote the children’s book “A Rose Without a Name” held a book signing at the event. The book was illustrated by Melissa Vandiver. The book tells the story of the “Katrina Rose” that survived Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.

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