Geneva Anderson digs into art

Love old roses? This Sunday’s 31st Celebration of Old Roses in El Cerrito will have hundreds and it’s free

The continuous blooming and highly fragrant Moss rose James Vietch is prized among collectors of old roses. The rose has deep crimson-purple flowers, globular in bud form, opening wide with layered and folded petals which tone from amaranth to pink with very mossy green sepals.

I’ll be in rose rhapsody this Sunday  at El Cerrito’s 31st annual Celebration of Old Roses…it’s a yearly trek I make along with a number of other old rose devotees from all over California where we can see, smell and talk old roses with other addicts.   The annual spring event is sponsored by the Heritage Roses Group and takes place at the El Cerrito Community Center from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The concept is simple—complete old rose immersion. Old roses or antique roses are varieties that date from 1860 or earlier.   Their attractiveness grows from their wonderful rich and varied fragrances, graceful growth habit which makes them ideal for the garden and diesease resistance.   The celebration in El Cerrito works like a old-fashioned country fair—visitors walk along and encounter a wonderful menagerie of mason jars filled with freshly picked old roses which have been organized by class—gallicas, centifolias, damasks, mosses, hybrid chinas, bourbons, portlands, chinas, teas, eglantines, floribundas and others—all in glorious states of bloom. There is ample opportunity to explore the nuances of each variety—fragrance, color, size, petal count, foliage and growth habit– and there are educational rose books, light refreshments and a proliferation of rosy knick-knacks.  The event also includes a silent auction for old roses .   And, of course, there are old rose vendors from all over (Vintage Gardens  from Sonoma County) who will be selling rare old roses, most of which are own root roses.

Vintage Garden’s catalogue of old roses is a descriptive compendium of some 3,000 old roses and the Bible for many collectors. It and many other rose resources will be offered at El Cerrito’s 31st annual Celebration of Old Roses on May 15, 2011.

I was seriously hooked on roses about 20 years ago when I was working as a journalist in Bulgaria and wrote about rose attar and the world famous annual rose harvest festival in Kazanlik.  After encountering acres and acres of richly fragrant damask roses, I too wanted a piece of the action.  From there, it’s been a joyous ride, that first required me to put down some roots of my own.  Now, settled in the country Sonoma County and growing about 100 old roses on two properties with differing microclimates, I am living out my rose dream…but there are NEVER enough roses.

When our local Sebastopol rose gurus, Gregg Lowery and Phillip Robinson, went exclusively mail order with their revered antique rose nursery Vintage Gardens, we lost one of the best hands-on rose education experiences to be had in Northern, CA.   All the more disappointing,  they won’t be having their annual open garden showcasing their fabulous collection of some 3,600 rare and old roses (all labeled).   Old rose events like the one in El Cerrito have to sustain those of us who are hungry to see rare roses and to road test the extensive knowledge we’ve gleaned from late-night reading and dog-earring of our rose books.   My bible is the Vintage Gardens Complete Catalogue of Antique and Extraordinary Roses.  This must-have catalogue gives an utterly riveting blow by blow accounting of the properties of nearly 3000 old and very rare roses, the largest list of roses offered by any nursery in the world today.  Consulting rosarians like Gregg Lowery will in be El Cerrito on Sunday, answering questions and identifying old roses  at the “mystery” table.  This is the chance to have any roses from your own garden identified—just put a complete cutting ( full bloom, bud and some foliage) in a jar and bring them to the event and the experts will try to identify them for you.

Another fabulous aspect of El Cerrito’s celebration is the chance to try and buy some very high quality rose products.  Last year, I purchased some delightful “Rose Embrace” rose eau de toilette from Healdsburg  perfumers Jan and Michael Tolmasoff who run the Russian River Rose Company.   The Tolmasoffs are the real-deal–they grow hundreds of damask roses and harvest their own petals to make their own unique rose scents.  They also offer hands-on rose harvest tours at their Healdsburg rose ranch where they have over 600 roses.

Rose shows require extensive planning, organization and support.  The Heritage Roses Group, formed in 1975, is a fellowship of those who care about old garden roses, species roses, old or unusual roses – particularly those roses introduced into commerce prior to the year 1867.  The group’s purposes are to preserve, enjoy, and share knowledge about the old roses.

Details:  El Cerrito’s 31st annual Celebration of Old Roses, Sunday May 15, 2011, El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. 11 am to 3:30 p.m.  There is no admission charge.


May 12, 2011 Posted by | Gardening | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Distinctly San Francisco—and affordable—two $35 shows all about San Francisco that give you a lot of bang for your buck

Brett Hammon plays Gavin Newsom in John Bisceglie's SF Follies at Theatre 39 through June 5, 2011. Photo: courtesy John Bisceglie.

Visitor or local, when spring hits, we’re most likely turn our sights to an evening out in San Francisco.  Here are two limited-run music and dance -filled shows, affordably priced at $35 (not including parking or drinks), that take an in-depth look at San Francisco, exploring its rich history, movers and shakers, and distinct neighborhoods.    

La Chica Boom is a burlesque performance artist featured in Saturday's late night Cabaret Lunatique at Teatro ZinZanni. Image Jerry Johnson.

Cabaret Lunatique: Catering to very late night pleasure seekers, Teatro ZinZanni in the glamorous old Spiegeltent on the Embarcadero’s Pier 29 recently launched Cabaret Lunatique, a series of hip and decadent Saturday midnight shows.  There’s just one show each month and each honors a different San Francisco neighborhood with live music, singers, contortionists, sultry dancing, sizzling burlesque and late-night specialty cocktails and a bar menu.  I can’t think of a better way to cap off an evening in San Francisco than at ZinZanni, where the atmosphere is old-world Europe colliding with zany-chic.  Dress-up is strongly encouraged and hats, feathers and bustiers put everyone in the party mood.  

The series began in March with a celebration of Chinatown that included a classical Gu Zheng musical performance by Bei Bei Zheng, aerialist Alexa Hukari and baritone Al Li from the SF Opera’s Adler Fellow Program who flirted it up with sultry burlesque performer Shanghai Pearl.  May’s show, this Saturday (May 14, 2011),  celebrates San Francisco’s Mission district and features performer and comedian Marga Gomez; spoken word artists Alejandra Mojica and Paul Flores; seductive burlesque performer | La Chica Boom; and DJ Ron Obregón.  They will also be joined by co-hosts Ricardo Salinas, director of ZinZanni’s current show “Caliente” and Robert Lopez , who also stars in “Caliente” as the character Cinco.  To look forward to:  June 4th, Castro; July 2, Fillmore/Jazz; August 6, Haight Ashbury.  

Details: Pier 29 The Embarcadero (at Battery Street), San Francisco, CA.  Drinks and light food available at an additional cost.  Fantasy costumes welcomed. Doors open 11:15 p.m. Tickets $25 to $35. Box Office Phone (415) 438-2668  or

SF Follies:  Right in heart of touristy Pier 39, is Theatre 39, home for the next month to SF Follies, a nostalgic and sharp-witted song-and-dance revue of the City’s history from pre-gold rush all the way up to the present day.  The Bay Area’s John Bisceglie is the author, director, producer and costume/set designer, with coauthor Jason Tarshis.  In 2009, SF Follies was awarded “Best Musical”, “Best Director”, “Best

What revue of San Francisco would be complete with pot? Tenaya Hurst is a singing dancing glittery cannabis bud in John Bisceglie's SF Follies at Theatre 39 at Pier 39 through June 5, 2011. Photo: John Bisceglie.

Choreographer” and “Best Ensemble” by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and this updated restaging is in the same vein as the original—poking good-hearted fun at local celebrities, politicians, institutions and the high cost of living in the City.  Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Tom Ammiano, Harvey Milk, Patty Hearst, the Giants—no one escapes Bisceglie’s irreverent gaze.   Listen carefully to the lyrics–they’re marvelous, witty, and au currant!   The ensemble of singers and actors is 15 strong with a stand-out performance by Brett Hammon as Gavin Newsom, a hippie, and he gives a riveting opening solo.   Showgirl, dancer and singer Tenaya Hurst, with glowing cheeks and a heartwarming smile plays a dancing cannabis plant, Patty Hearst, a Muni driver, and 1800’s mother with doll.  The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission.

Details: Theatre 39 at Pier 39 (Beach Street and The Embarcadero), San Francisco, CA.  Drinks and light food will be available at an additional cost.  8 more performances: Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Sunday, June 5th, 2011.  All tickets $35.  Box Office Phone: 1-800-838-3006.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment