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BELLAIRE • MEMORIAL • RIVER OAKS • TANGLEWOOD • WEST UNIVERSITY

Peggy Martin Roses

Flowering strength

Andria
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Nancy Godshall, Andrea Soper, and Marilyn Gregg

Nancy Godshall, Andrea Soper, and Marilyn Gregg are all fans of the beautiful and resilient Peggy Martin climbing rose. (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

A rose is a rose is a rose. Except for Peggy Martins. Peggy Martin roses are not just pretty to look at. Although they certainly are beautiful – their clustered pink blooms resemble naturally-occurring little bouquets – the Peggy Martins tell a story.

It is a story of strength, survival, and resilience. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, avid gardener Peggy Martin lost everything. Her beloved home and 12-acre property were flooded. Her husband’s shrimp boat that he used for supplemental income, gone. And worst of all, Peggy’s elderly parents succumbed to the storm.

Mary's Peggy Martins

Mary's Peggy Martins grow on the backside of their fireplace.

Two weeks after the storm, Peggy returned to her property to find the 450 rose bushes she had nurtured had all died. They just couldn’t survive two weeks under salt water. Except,  in all the rubble, there was one tiny spot of green. 

That small new life growing amidst destruction was a rose plant Peggy had grown from a cutting from a friend’s rose bush. Peggy is said to have wondered if it was a divine sign of hope in the middle of such profound loss.  

On a pre-Katrina trip to speak at the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society, Bill Welch, a horticulturist at Texas A&M University, had stayed with Peggy, a past president of the society, and her husband at their home. The pink climbing rose in Peggy’s garden had struck him as remarkable even before the storm – he wrote that it “took his breath away.” Disease-free, thornless, and easy to grow, the rose, which didn’t have a name, seemed to Bill to be a wonder flower. After the storm, when he heard that the rose had survived, he decided everyone should know about the remarkable plant.

Marilyn Gregg, Andrea Soper

Marilyn Gregg gave her daughter Andrea Soper (right) Peggy Martins, and they are flourishing in her garden. (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

What ensued was a campaign to promote the rose throughout garden clubs in the southeast, with one dollar from each sale going to a fund supporting the restoration of gardens and parks in New Orleans, Beaumont, and Laurel, Mississippi. With Houston gardener Nancy Godshall, a director of the Garden Club of America and an active member of the Garden Club of Houston, Bill kept the special rose alive, along with its story. And he named it after his friend Peggy Martin.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Marilyn Gregg, then president of the River Oaks Garden Club, helped Bill and Nancy spread the word about the remarkable Peggy Martin rose. “We needed to keep it going,” she said about the story as much as the rose. “We were constantly going to different garden club meetings around our zone, and I became a director of the zone. It was all word of mouth. We would talk about the rose and the history of it.” And Marilyn is a big fan of the rose.

“I started growing one,” she says, “and it’s sort of contagious. You want to grow two, then you want to grow a few.” Marilyn successfully grew more than a few in the Memorial house she and her husband lived in for 45 years. But when they moved to a Tanglewood townhome, neither the space nor the light were as plentiful. “It’s trying to climb the fence and grow over it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever see that unless I live to be 120, which I’m not counting on. But you never know.” Instead of waiting, Marilyn gifted her daughters Julia DeWalch and Andrea Soper Peggy Martins. 

Nancy Godshall and Marilyn Gregg

A ROSE WITH HEART After Hurricane Katrina, Nancy Godshall and Marilyn Gregg were instrumental in encouraging members of garden clubs across the southeast to grow Peggy Martin roses. Then, purchases of Peggy Martin rose bushes contributed to a recovery fund supporting green spaces in New Orleans, Beaumont, and Laurel, Mississippi. (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

“Julia’s didn’t do too well,” Marilyn says with a smile, but Andrea’s flourished. “Then I told her she needed one for their farm in Round Top. We put one on either side of her fence and then on top of her shed, and they’re going crazy!” Andrea’s strategy is not to trim them, because, she says, they just grow and grow. “She’s the gardener,” Marilyn says of her daughter.

Angela Roth is another avid Houston gardener. “I started by eating my great-grandmother’s begonia flowers,” she laughs – and she is one of the garden club members who heard Nancy or Bill or Marilyn – or someone – talk about roses. “They said this rose survived, and they were giving money to Katrina recovery.” So she bought one. 

Angela Roth

Angela Roth loves Peggy Martin roses for their hardiness and ease. (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

“She’s really easy to grow and just so pretty,” Angela says of the Peggy Martins. “All roses will take morning sun, but Peggy’s so tough she’ll take afternoon sun, too. The only drawback is she doesn’t have a scent. 

“She’s resilient, just like me. She’s something good that came out of Katrina. Maybe just the one thing.”

Angela has gifted the roses to neighbors, including Sharada Gowda, a neonatal physician who lives next door to Angela and is an avid gardener. Sharada has always had a soft spot for roses, which she said have a cultural significance for her. Back in India where she grew up, she would use roses as offerings during prayer as well as to welcome guests into her home. She’d decorate her hair with colorful roses and even cook with them. 

Sharada Gowda

Angela gifted her neighbor Sharada Gowda (pictured) with cuttings. (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

Sharada has been amazed by the Peggy Martins – they are constantly blooming and have survived even the harshest winter storms. 

“It’s almost like they don’t care about the rest of the world; they just keeps blooming and growing,” she said. “It’s a little unruly, it doesn’t follow rules, which I like. It’s almost free-spirited.” 

Peggy Martin roses

Peggy Martin roses flourish in Angela Roth’s yard.

Veterinary pharmacist Mary Raia Daubert loves her Peggy Martins for their own sentimental story. “They are on the backside of a fireplace that’s in our bedroom,” Mary says of the home she and husband JW built together in 2010. “We built this storybook style, English country, French tudor, whimsical, cottage style, very quirky house with our perfect team,” Mary says. Their landscaper was Marc Tellepsen, landscape architect was Mark Scioneaux, and architect was Reagan Miller. All three were lost in a small plane crash in Kerrville in 2019. “It was their idea to put in Peggy Martins.”

Mary doesn’t take any credit. “I’m just the owner of them because they’re attached to the ground in my house,” she jokes. “I was always in fear of something happening to them, but everyone said not to worry, the Peggy Martins would survive anything. And I can say from experience they’ve withstood it all – Harvey, all the winds, all the freezes, even baby birds in a nest. 

“They are just a joy. You can almost sit here and watch a bloom pop.”

Mary Rain Daubert’s roses

Mary Rain Daubert’s roses are blooming profusely. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Mary’s Peggy Martins started as plants “maybe three feet” tall. Fourteen years later, they climb up one side of her fireplace and down the other. “A beautiful thing,” Mary says. 

The roses were a special part of Mary and JW’s 2023 wedding. “We got married in the garden, with the Peggy Martins there. We just love this home, and they are the very unusual touch that makes the whole backyard. Knowing that our two Marks and Reagan were so instrumental in bringing them here – I have pictures of Reagan training them on a ladder – is so special.” 

Mary has a photo of the roses, one that she took from her second-story bedroom window, that she intentionally blurred and blew up. “I have it framed in my bathroom, and it looks like a Monet,” she says. 

Mary Raia Daubert and JW Daubert

Mary Raia Daubert and JW Daubert married under the Peggy Martin rose bush that cascades up and over their chimney. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

“It’s such a strong will of a rose, symbolizing that we can persevere and get through all kinds of things,” Mary says. “Sometimes I just come out here to pray or just gather [myself], and I look up at them. They are a beautiful painting with God’s paintbrush.”

Mary Fulgham, who retired as a violist with the Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet orchestra, is a master consulting rosarian with the American Rose Society. She grew up with her mother raising roses in their Bellaire garden. “This is what we did at the end of the work day,” Mary says. “We went out and picked roses and brought them inside. As soon as Randy and I got married, I planted roses in our first house.”

Mary has what she describes as “less than 200 rose bushes” in her garden. “But I also hybridize,” she says, “which means I’m raising seedlings. So I have roses coming and going.” Any roses Mary decides not to plant in her garden go to her front yard with a sign reading, “Free rose seedlings.”

Peggy Martin roses

Peggy Martin roses are in bloom in Mary’s yard.

“I never had room to have a Peggy Martin in my garden, but we have one on an arch in my church. It is just terrific, needs no care, and just grows and grows. You do need to water them. But that’s basically all we’ve done. And we added organic fertilizer. That’s basically all.”

Marilyn Gregg says there is no other rose bush quite like the Peggy Martin. “I happen to have roses as my favorite flower,” she says. “I’ve always felt that I’d have a mountain of roses if I could.

Angela Roth and Sharada Gowda

Neighbors Angela Roth and Sharada Gowda share a passion for the beautiful and resilient Peggy Martin climbing rose.  (Photo: Dylan Aguilar)

“It’s amazing that this thornless, beautiful climber with just these massive rounds of color – the smaller roses that create these little bouquets – survived all this,” Marilyn says of the Peggy Martin surviving Hurricane Katrina. “It’s not just a rose. I love the story. I love the fact that so many people have taken it upon themselves to grow them to make sure this keeps going. It’s something truly special.”

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