MR. HUNTINGTON'S GARDEN | A Rose Curator by Any Other Name

Posted on Tue., July 26, 2011 by James Folsom
Clair Martin (right) with longtime garden supporter and trustee emerita Ruth Shannon.
Clair Martin (right) with longtime garden supporter and trustee emerita Ruth Shannon.

What do you do when someone retires after dedicating 28 years to the Gardens? This was the situation last week when Clair Martin stepped down from his position as the Ruth B. and E. L. Shannon Curator of the Rose and Perennial Gardens.

Thankfully, we were able to call on the queen (volunteer Betts Hall) as well as her driver and assistant, the duke (volunteer Keith McDonald), to say a few appropriate words as well as to bestow Clair with knighthood in an uproariously jovial moment. Honors are well-deserved.

During his tenure, Clair redesigned the Rose Garden (working with architect Ann Christoph) to create a real public entryway, which was a missing feature. (The original Rose Garden flowed purely from the western edge of the Huntington Art Gallery's south terrace.)

Under Clair, The Huntington became a center for interpretation and conversation about the history and development of cultivated roses, and Clair authored two well-received books on roses—100 English Roses for the American Garden and 100 Old Roses for the American Garden. A recent highlight was recognition of the Rose Garden centennial in 2008, beautifully celebrated by "La Rose Impériale: The Development of Modern Roses," a full-scale exhibition in the Boone Gallery.

Clair has been appointed curator emeritus of the Rose Collection, and in that role he continues involvement with the Gardens, the collection, and our audiences. Significantly, Clair will maintain his leadership in organizing the Great Rosarians of the World lecture series and is working on a book on rose history that The Huntington will publish.

Moreover, I'm certain Clair will have input as new leadership emerges and new projects evolve that further deepen and define the rose-worthy mission of this collection and garden.

Jim Folsom is the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens at The Huntington.