The Léonie Bell Rose Garden at Tufton Farm was made possible by a generous grant from Louis Bell, in memory of his wife, the late rosarian Léonie Bell, whose contributions to the knowledge of old roses, especially the class known as Noisettes, and to other garden ornamentals was critical to our preservation of these plants today. Léonie Bell's book, The Fragrant Year, 1967, which she also illustrated, is a landmark work on choice garden plants. Speaking from her own research and experiences in her Pennsylvania garden, she wrote countless articles on old roses for the Heritage Roses Group and for national and international publications such as The American Rose Annual and The Royal National Rose Society. Mrs. Bell was mentor to many prominent experts in the field, including Dr. Arthur O. Tucker of Delaware State University and Rev. Douglas Seidel of Emmaus, Pennsylvania. It was Doug Seidel who arranged for many of the more rare Noisette specimens to be included in this garden, and even donated prized plants from his personal collection.
The story of the Noisette class of roses began at the dawn of the nineteenth century in Charleston, South Carolina, on the plantation of John Champneys. In Champneys’ garden two parent roses, the white European Musk and the deep rose colored, ever-blooming ‘Old Blush’ China rose, crossed to produce a very desirable offspring bearing clusters of pale pink flowers throughout the season with the sweet fragrance of the Musk. This rose, which he named ‘Champneys’ Pink Cluster’, traveled to France where rose breeder Louis Noisette went on to develop countless varieties from Champneys seminal cross. Thus, the class was named after Noisette, even though it originated in a southern North American garden.
The Bell Garden was designed to tell the story of rose breeding and development that ensued with this first American rose hybrid. In addition to the obvious varieties -- 'the Champneys Pink Cluster', 'Blush Noisette', and the parents 'Old Blush China' and 'Double White Musk' -- the garden includes many one-of-a-kind selections. Doug Seidel personally donated his "Aunt Louisa Rose" from the garden of President Garfield's aunt and "Faded Pink Monthly," from Creekside, home of pioneer old rose collector Mrs. Frederick Love Keays, who acquired her plant from the descendant of a slave who rooted a slip before the Civil War.
The garden, designed by Charlottesville landscape architect and historian C. Allan Brown, is reflective of 18th- and 19th-century Rosary Gardens, which were planted generally in a circular design creating an intimate enclosure of roses either festooning as garlands or freely flowering as bushes. Tufton's garden is octagon shaped, one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite forms, with paths bisecting the center and surrounded by eight-foot posts connected with chains for the climbing sorts. CHP's former nursery manager, Diane Lowe, and Monticello's former master carpenter/jack-of-all-trades Dick Proffit are to be commended for their fine work in executing this project. Special thanks go also to Wayne Goodall, CHP's dedicated volunteer, for her ideas and always appreciated involvement.
In addition to Louis Bell's contribution toward the garden's construction, CHP has received support from members of the Heritage Roses Group, The Philadelphia Rose Society, and other individuals with a passion for rose preservation and enduring esteem for Léonie Bell.
The garden remains a work in progress, both in design and content. More specimens will be added as they become available. Léonie Bell Rose Garden Planting (updated 2012)