Monday, August 20, 2018

The World's Largest Rosebush

  The world's largest rose bush in Tombstone, Arizona, is part of The Writer's family history.  Its story began in 1884 when a young miner and his wife came from Scotland to work in the Tombstone mines.  The young woman, Mary, was very homesick and particularly missed the garden of her childhood home.  In time she received a package of bulbs and cuttings from plants in that Scottish garden, including cuttings from a Lady Banksia rose she herself had planted as a young girl.  
  A single cutting was planted behind a boarding house in Tombstone, which was purchased by the Macia family in 1920.  It grew surprising well in the Arizona desert climate that was so unlike Scotland, and the Macia's named their new business the "Rose Tree Inn."  
  It had inadvertently been planted over an underground stream and the availability of that water accounts for the fact that now, 130-some years later, it covers 9,000 square feet!  



It has never needed to be fertilized but has to be pruned in January to bloom for six weeks in March and April.  You can smell the scent all over town.  

  When The Writer was growing up, his uncle's family continued to own the inn and live there.  He and his brother spent weeks every summer with their cousins, climbing on top of the adobe walls around the garden, playing cowboys and Indians (it was the 50s, folks!) over-under-and-through the rose tree branches, riding horses, climbing landforms in the desert, and having exciting Western adventures.

Today The Rose Tree Inn is still owned by the family and it's a museum.  It's near the legendary O.K. Corral where a famous 1881 gunfight between a gang of outlaws called The Cowboys and The Law (which included Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers - Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) erupted.  (Actually the gunfight took place six buildings away from the O.K. Corral, but what are mere facts in the face of Western novels and movies from the 1950s that insist on showing it happening at the O.K. Corral? ).  
  Thirty shots were fired in 30 seconds and three Cowboys lost their lives.  (If you think that was the end of that you'd be wrong.  A couple months later the Cowboys picked off Virgil (maimed) and Morgan (killed) in seperate ambushes on the streets of Tombstone. Wyatt took a hint and got out of Dodge, so to speak.  He continued fighting, gambling, and shyster-ing in California and managed to survive into his 70s.)

Well, that is my last post on our trip to Arizona.  That afternoon we headed back north to Phoenix, through the first rains of the monsoon season, with flooded roads and traffic brought to a halt for over an hour.  Close to Phoenix we drove through my first duststorm in the desert, which made the tv news that evening.  Then we gave up our luxurious rental car with the cooled seats, spent a few too-short hours sleeping in a hotel, and flew home to South Carolina.  


  1. The rose tree is quite amazing. I have visited Tombstone but don't remember seeing it. How did I miss such a prominent feature? Great memories of childhood I am sure.

  2. That is one very impressive rose bush and so nice that there are many childhood memories linked to it.

  3. That rose-bush is a lot more impressive and more worth seeing than many of the "world's largest...." items which are supposed to attract visitors to a town. Not the kind of thing you'd expect to find in the desert, or indeed in a place called Tombstone.

  4. Enjoyed your post, Arizona is fascinating and throw in some family history and it's great.

  5. That is one amazing rose bush. Are the branches supported throughout?

    1. Yes, the poles you can see in the last photo are holding up a maze of supports above them to hold up the branches.

  6. The rose tree is over 9000 sq. ft. It was 4000 sq. ft. when I was a small boy and the writer wasn't born yet.

  7. Great interesting report on your trip Cynthia.
    You, like two special Aussies - Diane and Margaret - do the
    travel industry proud of both our countries with your in-depth reporting and photos.

    That historical fact is almost unbelievable until we read your report of the
    ground under the initial planting.

    Hmmmmmmmm - I wonder would "Turnip Top" like to have a little ole gunfight at the OK corral.
    I'd take the bastard on with relish.

  8. Arizona is an interesting place to visit. It has some bizarre history.

  9. I'm sure I saw a program on the television which included your rose tree... with shots of the whole tree in bloom! It really is amazing!

  10. That rose bush is amazing!! And I can't get one to live past two years. I love the history and how you tell the stories. I'm a big fan of cowboy shows. :)

  11. Wow that is an interesting plant and to be connected to the Writers family too. Sounds like you have had a great trip.

  12. Isn't that amazing that a rose bush cutting could have not only survived the trip from Scotland but be thriving today? It is fascinating to read the family history of Rose Tree Inn. I must have been very close by on my travels, I remember seeing sunrise at Tucson Arizona, and we all come to see the O.K Corral right? This was 30 years ago so things are a tad hazy now lol. Next time I'll book you and the Writer as my tour guides!
    Wren xx

  13. What an amazing bush! I enjoyed reading about it very much. Loved the story! A good lesson in botanical tenacity!

  14. Aha so that's the secret of growing an amaing rose bush. All I need now is a divining stick to go in search of a hidden stream.