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Kelly Taub

Takeaways From The Rose Garden Dinner 2015: Julie Andrews is Exquisite

Somewhere in between the charmed laughter and endearing smiles, Julie Andrews began to read a passage from her diary that she wrote when filming Mary Poppins, about what kind of rose she would be if she could be reincarnated as a beautiful flower. “I thought about this as I was sitting in the makeup chair on the set of Mary Poppins,” she told us, “And here is what I wrote”.

Last Thursday the New York Botanical Garden hosted its 25th-Annual Rose Garden Dinner in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, and Garden Collage was a proud sponsor of the event.

NYBG’s Annual Rose Garden Dinner celebrates the autumn flowering of the garden’s prodigious rose collection, which includes nearly 700 varieties. This year, actress Julie Andrews and the New York Botanical Garden’s head Rosarian Stephen Scanniello were the evening’s honorees, and both gave speeches so moving that we feel the need to excerpt sections of each below.

Stephen Scanniello, Julie AndrewsKelly Taub
Stephen Scanniello, Julie Andrews

“Almost every morning when I go to the studio,” Andrews recalled, reading the passage from her diary, “I discover a fresh rose in a bud vase on my dressing table. Mavis, the lady who cares for my apartment, picks one for me fresh from my garden every single day. These roses give me immense and infinite pleasure– one living and vital thing in a dusty room of powder and tissue, matches and newspaper. And as I sit in my makeup chair while Bill, my lovely make up man, toils away, I have time to marvel at these lovely flowers and to ponder them– because I’m never sure each day, as I enter my makeup room, what kind of rose will be waiting for me. What color? Will it be a bud or bloom? A thick stem or a thin stem? A large head on a fragile stalk? Cruel thorns? Or merely prickle stubble?”

Through the course of her reading, Andrews reminded the audience of her passion for roses by virtue of the sheer thoughtfulness with which she considered them. When contemplating the splendor of the flowers at the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, she mentioned that the “beautiful, gentle perfume of a rose swings me gently into sense memories of the past, my childhood, rain, and gardens….a special pleasure in a somewhat synthetic world.”

Earlier in the evening, guests met for cocktails in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden before being carted to the NYBG’s Garden Terrace Room for dinner, dancing, and keynotes from Andrews and Scanniello.

“The beautiful, gentle perfume of a rose swings me gently into sense memories of the past, my childhood, rain, and gardens….a special pleasure in a somewhat synthetic world” — Julie Andrews[addtoany]

“I decided that if I was to be reincarnated, a rose is what I would choose to be,” Andrews continued. “But which rose would I really want to be?” The audience, surrounded by bundles of roses themselves, waited patiently for her response in rapt silence.

“Should I be a white rose, so pale that I’d be almost green? With curling edges and a purity that couldn’t be rivaled? Hmm….no,” she continued as the audience chuckled conspiratorially. “Well then, how about a red, red rose? With color so pure that one is reminded of blood and history and dynastic wars named for the color of it? One is also reminded of lovers’ quarrels, Shakespeare, England….hmm, not quite for me either,” she continued.

“Certainly I would not be a rose of the lavender or pale gold variety; they seem faded and dusty before they even begin– no shadowy existence for me!” she added.

Eventually, Andrews settled on a classic pink rose:

“It seems that after sorting through all the colors that one can think of, I am left with but one rose: I know it as simply an average garden rose: a common, honest flower that in bud may look vaguely peachy; a primrose probably streaked with a little coral or red– or sometimes a little tinge of pink. But as its life span begins and the sun gently warms it and opens it generously to a stretching and vibrant existence, one is dazzled by its infinite subtleties and coloring, causing one to look and look again. It has nothing to hide; it seems to say: ‘Savor me, smell me…I’m here to give you pleasure and joy’.

“Oh, to be useful in such a fashion and be able to give so much!” she mused, winning over the crowd with the thoughtful consideration she gave this memory.

Maureen Chilton, Julie Andrews, Sigourney Weaver, Gregory Long, Stephen Scanniello

Maureen Chilton, Julie Andrews, Sigourney Weaver, Gregory Long, Stephen Scanniello

Scanniello, for his part, also spoke eloquently about the New York Botanical Garden’s prized rose acquisitions and their emphasis on sustainable gardening. He told stories of prized rarities currently housed in the garden, including the Bermuda Mystery Rose (which goes by the name of “Belfield”,) which was introduced to the West from China in 1700’s and now grows as a prized specimen under Scanniello’s careful tutelage. (Later in the week, we’ll have an exclusive Garden Collage interview with Scanniello in which he’ll expand upon some of the other rare, historic roses currently thriving at the NYBG.)

All proceeds from the 2015 Rose Garden Dinner will go towards building and maintaining the Rose Garden selection and to support the curators who continue to care for and develop what has been named the “Most Outstanding Public Rose Garden Display in America”. Garden Collage was a proud sponsor of this year’s event, as guests received goodie bags that included custom GC Rose Sachets (in honor of the event’s heritage) as well as seed cards and eco totes. We hope to continue our partnership with the New York Botanical Garden for many years to come. As one of the richest cultural institutions in New York City, the NYBG is as estimable as it is timeless– much like a rose itself.

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The New York Botanical Garden is located at 2900 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. Its operation is made possible by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Find more information about the dinner and the garden here, and check out our gallery of images from the event, below.

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