Lee Ginnenthal - DerRosenmeister Rose Nursery


Lee Ginnenthal has been an intricate part of the upstate NY horticultural world for years. We sat down with him recently and discussed his past work and his current business DerRosenmeister Rose Nursery located in Ithaca, NY. Lee will be having his unique collection of specialty climber and rambler roses on ShrubBucket this coming spring. We are thrilled to have such a widely respected rosarian join the ShrubBucket family. 

Der Rosenmister is the result of a lifetime of passion in the horticulture field. How did it come about?

I never grew roses until after one of my grandmothers died. She always grew them, mostly hybrid teas, but she had one old rambler from when my mother was a baby. When she died my mom asked what I wanted from my grandmother's house, and I said a cutting of the old rambler. That was the first rose I grew. I researched the variety and found out it was Dr. Van Fleet, and I was hooked. Eventually our backyard in downtown Ithaca was filled with roses. I was thinking of a way to support my hobby and rose addiction and the thought of a nursery as side business started to develop for when I retired. The nursery opened in 2003.

Having worked as an educator in the local schools, what role does education play in your nursery?

I am compelled to teach all my customers and visitors who come to the nursery. There is so much misinformation about roses. People have preconceived ideas which is promoted by many in the nursery industry who don't really know about roses. Many are still growing disease prone varieties that are not hardy. Most are still grown with chemical sprays and chemical fertilizers as well.

Rosa 'Florentina' - A continuous blooming climber.

What has changed in the rose industry since you've started?

Every year more and more smaller specialty rose nurseries are closing and the larger ones are bought up by bigger general nursery companies. The passion for old roses unfortunately has waned.

Rosa 'Jasmina' - A repeat blooming climber

You've seen garden trends come and go over the years, do you have some favorites?

The mixed border is one of my particular favorites.

Roses are obviously your passion, but what other plant interests do you secretly harbor?

I do bonsai, have an extensive collection of trees planted out here (ginkgos, as well as oaks, maples, and zelkovas ). My love,knowledge, and skill of pruning developed from growing bonsai impacts how I handle all woody plants here at my home.

Rosa 'Canadian Shield' - A Zone 3 hardy floribunda

Tell me about a favorite garden or garden designer who has inspired your own gardens.

High Grove, owned and designed by the Prince of Wales had a big influence on the design of my property. All the designers from the Edwardian Era influenced my love of ramblers and influenced how I grow them here. Graham Stuart Thomas, of course, he saved and brought back old roses.

We each have a favorite plant (which usually changes every day) but tell me about today's favorite rose? What are some standouts for you?

Ah... a common question... here's my thoughts after 30+ years growing roses. These are based on growing roses in Central NY in three of my favorite classes of roses:

Climbers- Florentina, Jasmina, Laguna, Summer Wine (Note:these are all Kordes roses!)

Ramblers- Lykkefund, City or York, Long John Silver, Thor, Harry Maasz, Lillian Gibson

Shrub- Prairie Peace

Rosa 'Quick Silver' - Hardier and more disease resistant climber

What exactly do you look for in a good quality rose. What makes them so much more compelling for you than some of the modern hybrids being marketed today.

I am drawn to a wider range of traits and subtleties within those roses. For me it would be comparable to appreciating a fine wine! Most folks look at a rose quickly, noting the color and if it looks like a rose you'd find in a florist - usually the typical hybrid tea form. There is so much more to it than that!

First, I look for a unique combination of traits found in a bud before it opens. I focus on the shape of the bud(s)- pointed or rounded, the shape of the sepals (green parts that wrap the bud and then support the flower as it opens) Do they create an interesting contrast against the bud? Do they extend beyond the bud or only part way up? I am drawn to buds that show a combination of colors or a greater depth or saturation of color.

When the flower opens how many petals does it show? Roses can have as few as 5 or as many as over 100 petals. Each has its charm. Within roses with fewer petals (singles or semi-doubles) I look for a transluscence of the petal-what does light shining through the petal reveal? What about veining or texture?

Fragrance is one of my favorite traits. There is more than one scent found in a rose. most folks think all scented roses smell of one scent rose- NOT SO! There is a tea rose scent, a fruit scent, an spice scent, a myrrh scent, and many roses have a combination of these scents combined.

And then there is the foliage. What is the color of the leaves? there are many variations - Dark green, blue green, bronzed red, etc. Are the leaves shiny or matte? How dense is the foliage? 

When you start to look for all these traits and more, you will find some roses just call to you... it's all about learning to see...

Tell me about any trends in rose industry that you're excited about?

There is finally a focus on disease resistant roses and a renewed interest in fragrance.

What is being lost in your industry that you're sad about?

Older roses are harder and harder to find. Once blooming ramblers that will give more flowers in 3 weeks than continuous bloomers will all season are ignored completely. New climbers are getting smaller and smaller. Many of them are really just large shrubs. The drama and diversity of flower form is quickly disappearing. Few people think of multi-season interest such as rose hips anymore.

Rosa 'Lucy Irene' - A Zone 3 Climber

Each of us in the gardening world have role models that we look up to. Tell me about yours.

Mike Lowe was an early and major influence. He really promoted own root roses, and had an amazing collection of older varieties that he made available from a small nursery a little larger than mine.

You've done work in the past with youth horticulture program, cancer resource center garden, and other community groups - What role does horticulture play in the vibrancy of the community? 

Transforming spaces transforms those who create the space, as well as those who experience the space. We need to surround ourselves with beauty. I base most of my designs on adverbs (under, around through, etc.) as a way to get people to interact with a garden space and not just view it.

Finally, You have always been a big supporter of using technology to promote and engage with people. What role and benefits do you see for nurseries to partner with companies like ShrubBucket? 

The nursery industry is endangered. That applies to nurseries of all sizes. Peoples shopping and buying habits are rapidly changing. Customers shopping online have grown accustomed to limitless choices with immediate responses. The way people learn about things has changed too - local garden clubs, rose societies, etc. don't have the membership they once did. People are now more apt to join a group or read online rather than browse in a library or book store.

Shrubbucket provides a venue for nurseries like mine to have a much wider audience and exposure. In the past I have just sold from my nursery or at a few local plant sales. I do not ship any of my plants as they are too large and it's not cost effective. Through ShrubBucket, now folks beyond my immediate area have access to my roses.

Shrubbucket provides a constant stream of information which is crucial in today's world. It is similar to that you'd get from an experienced gardener or garden club member. It also exposes the public to an amazing range of plant material- more than any one nursery could possibly offer. Additionally, the quality is amazing. I still believe in the small specialty nursery like mine, however, Shrubbucket will help us to survive, thrive, and transition to the digital economy.

Thanks Lee, We are really looking forward to seeing your list of roses this year on the site. Welcome aboard!

Thank you! Im very excited!

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  • Ulysses Hedrick