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Cape Cod Roses, or How Woods Hole grew this famous Cape Cod Rose

July 15th, 2014 by Beth Colt

WRFinal1From Guest Blogger Gwen Martin:  Ever wondered what a New England seaside village looked like in the early 1900s? A walking tour of Woods Hole opened my eyes to what life was like here over a hundred years ago. Although the village is now home to four major scientific institutions with their laboratories and offices, back then only the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and National Marine Fisheries were in operation and only in the summer months, and they had fewer than 5 year-round employees each. And people think that Woods Hole is quiet during the winter now, ha!

During those early years, however, there was a thriving industry in Woods Hole that I would never have imagined. Its products were totally trendy and shipped worldwide. Any guesses? Roses. Walsh Roses to be specific. After years of experimenting while a gardener at the Fay Estate, Michael Walsh developed several strands of low-maintenance, beautiful, and unique Cape Cod roses. The Fays even hired an additional gardener, so Walsh could concentrate solely on developing his roses. The Fays wagered wisely, the Walsh rose did become world-renowned.

The Woods Hole Historical Museum’s tour guide noted that Walsh was an astute horticulturist. He repeatedly sent roses across the Atlantic to Paris flower shows, and, without fail, the roses were in full bloom upon their arrival two weeks later.  And his Woods Hole rose grew to be one of the most famous exports of Cape Cod, known to travelers around the world for it’s distinctive color and simple bloom.

Although the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution now owns the land where Walsh’s roses grew, his Cape Cod roses also grow throughout the village alongside shuttered 18th century cottages, quaint churches, and treasures like the exquisite stone Bell Tower and the gorgeous stone building which is home to the Woods Hole Public Library, adjacent to Walsh Cottage at the Museum.

The Woods Hole Historical Museum has created a map of the main rose locations, and they hope that visitors and locals will take the time to walk around and see this remarkable living history, a wonderful activity while staying at the Woods Hole Inn.

- Gwen Martin, guest blogger

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