The Howard Rose Garden: Planted with Banning Transportation in Mind

By Gloria Leinbach, Garden Gloves Committee Volunteer and Resident Rosarian

Beautiful Howard Rose Garden

In 2010, Friends of Banning Museum and The Garden Gloves volunteer group recreated a “Victorian Rose Garden” adjacent to an existing garden consisting of mostly 1960s- 1970s era modern roses. This new hypothetical garden contains a diverse collection of roses consisting of many varieties and colors that were known during the 1860s to the 1890s when Phineas Banning built his Greek Revival mansion in Wilmington, California. Many of the roses selected are based on the Banning’s transportation history, California history, the Los Angeles Times newspaper archives and books published during the late Victorian era. The history of how these roses made their way into Los Angeles gardens is tied to networks of shipping and railroad systems that connected European and American markets, which then connected east and west coast markets. Plant catalogs and seed companies expanded with the railroads and for the first time, imported European roses, fruit trees, and ornamental plants were available across the United States, including Los Angeles.

Garden Gloves Volunteers (l-r): Kathy Sauers, Anita Moore, Gloria Leinbach, and Joe Manzo.

In 2013, Friends of Banning Museum, in an effort to recreate the Golden Age of horticulture and early gardens of Los Angeles, expanded the rose garden to include eight new beds of found roses from California’s gold mining towns, homesteads, and cemeteries that pay homage to this Ventura-to-San Diego-and-beyond fame. On January 1, 1894, the Los Angeles Times described Los Angeles as a city with great potential because of its two transcontinental railroads, salubrious climate, business opportunities, agriculture, and infrastructure. Interestingly,
Phineas Banning started his own stage and shipping company in the 1860s and later organized the construction of Southern California’s first railroad, the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad. One rose in the garden that honors his legacy is “Union Hotel Occidental” (pictured below). Phineas Banning died at The Occidental Hotel in San Francisco at the age of 56. Although not well known, this rambling rose with its arching pink fountain of blooms adds historical relevance as well as beauty.

Union Hotel Occidental Rose

With the recent interest in restoring important historical houses and gardens such as the Banning residence, old garden roses have regained some of their popularity. The Friends of Banning Museum are proud of their new “Victorian Rose Garden” section in our wonderful Howard Rose Garden. We are trying to live up to Los Angeles’ historic Western Eden legacy and share our beautiful garden with visitors, garden groups, and all the school children who come to learn about Phineas Banning and early Los Angeles transportation history.