Meet the gardeners: Char & Tim Bradley

Getting to Know Char and Tim Bradley

For anyone who has spent time strolling around the southeast quadrant of our garden, it’s obvious that Char and Tim Bradley, caretakers of plots 21 and 31, share a special fondness for old garden roses, also known as heritage roses. Char says that roses are like children: they’re each unique, captivating, and remarkable. They have been collecting unusual specimens since 1999, and were happy to share their considerable expertise on the subject.

Q. Why old roses?

A. Between the 1950s and about 2000, many beautiful roses were hybridized with the goal being a single rose at the top of a strong stem, good disease resistance, and repeat bloom. However, fragrance was lost as part of the hybridizing process. Heritage roses offer fragrance, beauty, and variety. Heritage roses are ones that were first grown prior to 1910. After 1910 newly introduced roses are considered to be “modern” roses.

However, many old roses bloom only once a year. They put on a spectacular show that lasts six or eight weeks, then rest until the following year. Due to limited space, we have planted old roses that are remontant, i.e., they repeat bloom.

What’s different about gardening with old roses as opposed to modern hybrid varieties?

Heritage roses are easy to care for, although they can have more black spot than modern roses. While they are so lovely in bloom, they do not last as long in a vase as modern, hybridized roses. Often old roses are on short stems, buried in the bush. As we grew more old roses we had to retire our large vases for smaller, shorter vases to display them. Nevertheless, they are gorgeous, unique, and deserve to be enjoyed . . . and, we like to think about all of the history that these roses have witnessed. For instance, we collected five specimens in old California cemetery plots with gravestones that date back to the 1860s.

What other garden plants blend well with heritage roses?

Roses are beautiful planted along with just about anything. We’ve seen them planted near clematis, salvias, and lavender. As we focus again on planting more vegetables in our community garden plots, we can tell you that they do well next to Swiss chard, beets, onions and kale.

Where can gardeners acquire heritage roses?

The Antique Rose Emporium in Texas and Pickering Nurseries in Canada are two good sources for purchasing heritage roses. Old rose lovers are helping to keep the varieties alive by sharing cuttings and growing them in their gardens.

What are some of your favorites?

Souvenir de la Malmaison: This famous, beautifully shaped old rose dates back to 1843 from rose breeder Jean Béluze. We’ve been growing this rose in the community garden for many years. One time the rose, in a vase at our home, dropped its petals: Char counted the petals: 142!! That’s a huge amount of petals for a rose!


North San Juan Pink: We gathered this very fragrant pink rose from a grave in the North San Juan Protestant Cemetery; the gravestone dated in the 1860s.


Francis Dubreuil: This one is prized for scent and color.


Vick’s Caprice: This one is prized for its lovely color and shape.


Others (not pictured) include:


In the early- to mid-1800s, rose hybridizers in Europe were trying to introduce yellow to the primarily pink, red and white roses that grew in Europe. Also, they were trying to introduce repeat blooming from China roses. Previously, roses in Europe bloomed once a year. The first yellow, repeat blooming rose was Safrano, introduced by Beauregard (France) in 1839. We have grown this rose in our plot, but sadly, it died several years after being replanted from our previous community garden location in Arroyo Vista.

La France

The first hybrid tea rose, which is the parent of most modern roses, was La France, introduced by Jean-Baptiste André (fils) Guillot in 1867. We are growing this rose in our garden plot.

Old Blush or Parson’s Pink China

This gem is always in bloom.


This rose, introduced in 1894, blooms first in a very lovely light yellow and slowly turns to cherry red as the blooms age. This bush also is always in bloom.

Editor’s note:

Thanks to Char and Tim for their many years of service to gardening on campus!

Read more from Char and Tim on the history of gardening at UCI.

–Marie Connors, Feb. 11, 2017