ROSE EXPERT STEPHEN SCANNIELLO TALKS ABOUT HIS PASSION

Whenever there is a poll on the world’s favorite flower it is always the rose that comes out on top. No garden is complete without its complement of rose bushes whether they be standards, climbers, ramblers or the humble patio rose. So it’s always interesting to listen to an expert such as Stephen Scanniello the Chief Rosarian at the New York Botanical Garden. I came across the interview which was conducted by Molly Beauchemin on the Garden Collage website.

GC: What was your first experience with gardening?

SS: I grew up in North Jersey, and my Irish aunt would always prune our roses on St. Patty?s Day? she had one rosebush, and when she was all finished pruning she?d take out her lipstick and smear all the petals with her red lipstick. That left an impression on me. But it wasn?t till I accidentally got a job at Brooklyn Botanic Garden that I became a gardener.

GC: How did you accidentally stumble upon that?

SS: I was working at a medical lab at the time, and I got my degree from Lebanon Valley College in Biology. I really wasn?t very inspired to go anywhere with it. I didn?t know what to do, so I came home and ended up with a job at a medical lab. I was making artificial arteries from human umbilical cords, which sounds really fascinating? but after a week it?s excruciating.
I was an amateur photographer, too, so they sent me back to night school at School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and there I met somebody who worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She said, ?You know, we have an opening for a teacher, but we want somebody who has a biology background rather than plants.? So I went and put on my best polyester suit on my twenty-sixth birthday and I got the job. From there, I worked my way up.

rose

GC: That?s not the sequence of events that I would have guessed.

SS: Well yeah, actually I?m training to have a degree in horticulture. I study under Queen Elizabeth?s gardener? I?m the accidental gardener. The day I became the Rosarian at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it was essentially because nobody wanted the position and they came to me and said, ?You wanna try it?? Sure. I knew nothing about roses. But I was there for almost twenty years, and I learned something.

GC: What brought you over to the New York Botanical Garden?

SS: I left Brooklyn in ?98 and focused strictly on the private world while I did some more writing. But I was really, really missing the interaction with the public, and one day the New York Botanical Garden called me and we talked about it, and I said sure, I?ll give it a try.

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