The Tularosa Rose Project

In the summer of 1998, we were contacted through the web by a wonderful lady who had lived for a time in Tularosa, NM. She said that she had "discovered" a well watered garden in Tularosa that was filled with huge cottonwood trees and lots of roses. Because her e-mail such a wonderful illustration of the way that the Internet can help identify and rescue old roses, I have included the following edited excerpts of it--

"I have wanted to tell a Texas or New Mexico Rose Rustler society about an amazing garden in Tularosa, NM. We had been picnicking there for a year or two (1989-1991) because we were fascinated by its gorgeous lushness, even in extreme neglect. It is in the water district where the water is so plentiful that the cottonwoods are easily 10-15 feet around.

One day, a man came over from across the street and he told us the story of the garden.

It turns out that it was the second house built by the Spanish when they settled the area, and because water is so plentiful, most of the original plantings have survived: Manzana de San Juan, figs, grapes, and roses.

I knew nothing about old roses at that time, and now I wonder what those roses might have been. Has anyone visited this garden and identified these roses? Has anyone taken cuttings?

The man (I think his name was Mr. Dominguez) told us that his sister owned the land, but that the Tularosa Historical Society was trying to purchase it."


Tularosa is a fascinating place with a very interesting History, NM. that extends back to the 1860's. The feature of the area that brought the early settlers was the abundant water, and they quickly set about constructing a system of acequias, (irrigation ditches). Those same irrigation ditches are still in use today.

Armed with this preliminary information, my wife, Juanita, and I made a trip to New Mexico in the fall of 2001. The occasion of the trip was to visit some friends who had recently moved from Houston, TX to Ruidoso, NM. But, in truth, there was another strong motivational aspect - "Rose Rustling".

We spent most of the first day checking out the territory, and we found that there were a number of modern Hybrid Tea roses growing in the yards of the old city and along the acequias. There were also occasional wild roses, principally along the acequias.

I am sure that we appeared strange and somewhat foreboding as we went around town asking questions about "historical roses", but the people of Tularosa were unusually friendly and helpful. After asking around for some time, I was able to make connections with the a lady who was very prominent in the Tularosa Historical Society, and she agreed to meet with us and take us to several rose sites the next day.

Bright and early the next morning, Juanita and I met her at the park behind the police station, and were taken to the home of a friend. That home is one of the original homes of Tularosa, and it has been beautifully and lovingly restored. After a bit of conversation we were off to look for roses. We went to several sites that day, and collected a few cuttings of wild roses and one rose that they called the "Tularosa Rose". On the way back up to Ruidoso, we also took cuttings of a magnificent wild rose that was growing at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet.

We are now exploring the possibility of having an "old rose" contest to find the oldest rose in Tularosa, and we hope to participate in the identification, propagation and replanting of the original Tularosa roses.

Check back later for further developments.

Last updated 04/15/2002