Inside a Magical Bronx Rose-Garden Party
A few days ago, the New York Botanical Garden hosted its 25th anniversary of the Rose Garden Dinner. This year it honored the garden’s curator, “rosarian” Stephen Scanniello, and legendary actress and rose enthusiast Dame Julie Andrews. The night began with cocktails at dusk at the world-renowned rose garden, a magical place, especially in the dark. The night culminated with a seated dinner, dancing, and a small ceremony honoring Scanniello and Andrews. Board member Sigourney Weaver presented the latter with an antique botanical drawing.
The famed garden blooms well into October, when more than 650 varieties of roses are at their peak. Designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand in 1916, this garden was completed in 1988 with the support of David Rockefeller and was named after his wife, Peggy, a conservationist who loved roses.
The garden is home to many heirloom and heritage breeds of roses, some of which I learned about that night, including the Belfield—a tiny red rose found growing against a wall of a cottage in Bermuda and said to be the parent of all red roses. Another favorite was the Sally Holmes, a simple rose that was suggested to Julie Andrews years ago by Stephen Scanniello for its success in salty climates and which is now among her favorites—it thrives in her seaside gardens.
The Rose Garden is among the world’s most beautiful but is also known for its commitment to sustainability. The roses are cultivated using minimal spraying, instead using healthy soil, the addition of disease-resistant hearty rose plants, and good gardening practices to keep the gardens in peak health.
Kate Spade New York Malmo Rose Gold 5-Piece Place Setting, Set of Four ($40)
The dinner was held the Garden Terrace Room, a classically elegant space with hand-painted murals. Mr. Scanniello made a riotous speech, my favorite quote calling the Queen Elizabeth Rose “no good in a bed, great up against a wall.” (Rose jokes!) Julie Andrews read pages from her diary that she had written while on the set of Mary Poppins in the 1960s. Every day, a rose would be in her dressing room, and she would wonder what type of rose it would be. “Will it be a bud or a bloom? A thick stem, a thin stem, a large head on a fragile stalk, cruel thorns, or merely prickly stubble.” She went on, in her mesmerizing voice, to recount how she wondered to her diary, almost 50 years ago, what kind of rose she would be.
Garden-party soirées can persist well into autumn. Start before sunset, use fresh-cut blooms in dainty arrangements, lanterns, tea lights in trees, and simple tablescapes. The elegance of cocktails in a garden is all you need. And when the fall chill begins to creep into the air, take the party inside for some dinner.