California’s Rose Story Farm

RoseStoryFarm2Text by Vicki Ingham / Photography by Stephanie Welbourne

Life is indeed a bed of roses—actually, acres and acres of roses—for Danielle and Bill Hahn, owners of Rose Story Farm.

Imagine walking through acres of roses, inhaling their intoxicating fragrance with every breath. From May through November, that’s a near-daily routine for Danielle Hahn and her family, owners of Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, California. They grow roses for the florist trade—not the uniform, scentless hybrid teas that dominate the business but the luscious, aromatic, old-fashioned kind you normally find only in home gardens.

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Seeking the country life for themselves and their two sons, Danielle and her husband, Bill, bought the 15-acre farm in 1998. In addition to aging lemon and avocado trees, the property included dilapidated laborers’ cottages, a decrepit Victorian house, and a Spanish Colonial Revival barn. Today the avocado trees have been replaced with improved varieties, the restored barn houses the farm offices, the Victorian house is home, and two of the four renovated cottages are available for weekend rental. Most of the lemon trees made way for the roses.
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The Hahns grew roses as home gardeners, and their grandmothers on both sides were expert rosarians. “But we had no experience whatsoever doing roses commercially,” Danielle says. “We thought there would be a way to do it efficiently, but no—you cultivate them as you would in a home garden, just on a larger scale. It’s all done by hand, and it’s all organic.”RoseStoryFarm6

They started with 1,000 bushes, mostly old-fashioned European varieties or pre-1950 American hybrid teas. Today the farm boasts 2,000 bushes and more than 120 varieties. Bill oversees the growing operation, and Danielle manages the rest—the gift shop, tours, vendors, floral arrangements,
garden design, and special events.RoseStoryFarm1

The successful blend of small-scale niche farming, educational outreach, and cottage rental has been recognized as a model for small family farms, and in 2014 Danielle was named Great Rosarian of the World, acknowledging this achievement. The award, co-sponsored by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and the New York Metropolitan Rose Council, honors men and women who have made significant contributions to the cultivation and appreciation of roses.RoseStoryFarm5RoseStoryFarm8

“There are as many ways to grow roses as there are gardeners,”Danielle says. She and Bill received valuable advice from other farmers and growers, but one of their most important mentors was Julia Child, a family friend. She always encouraged them. “She’d say, ‘Try, try again; don’t give up,’” Danielle recalls. “If we stayed true to ourselves, things would work out. And they have.”RoseStoryFarm9

The Spanish Colonial Revival barn was designed before 1923 by James Osborne Craig, the architect responsible for El Paseo, Santa Barbara’s charming historic shopping center. It originally housed polo ponies and then served as a railway heiress’s party room. Now, charmingly decorated with architectural salvage and vintage pieces, it serves as office space for Rose Story Farm.

RoseStoryFarm10(Left) This fully open Tropical Sunset rose displays the variety’s characteristic gold and orange stripes. It’s a lightly fragrant hybrid tea developed in New Zealand. (Right) Isabel is a modern shrub rose developed by Danish breeder Poulsen Roser A/S. It combines the look of Old-World roses with continuous flowering and good disease resistance.