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How a rugged seaside farm, friendship and Julia Child created a beloved Rose

August 18, 2023

How the iconic Chef –finally– chose the Julia Child Rose.

In 1998, when Danielle Hahn and her husband, Bill, decided to become rose growers on their 15-acre seaside property in Carpinteria, CA, the endeavor was always more than just about farming. It was a decision to make a life that would always put friends, family and the most beautiful fragrant roses at the core of their livelihood. Their property, Rose Story Farm, is nestled between hills, now covered in more than 25,000 rose bushes, and has views of the Pacific Ocean. It is named for the fact that everyone has a story about roses. The Hahn’s welcome visitors to share their love of roses and how they intertwine with life’s tales.

Visiting Rose Story Farm

My own visit was an enchanting experience.

We followed Danielle Hahn around the property as she shared wonderfully, intimate plant details. She was constantly snipping huge roses (handing them to us until our arms were literally filled with so many intoxicating blossoms we don’t know what to do!). Afterwards, we enjoyed a casual drink and a piece of her mother’s famous lemon rose cake. (You can also you can stay in one of the rental cottages).

You can’t help but feel like a special guest. We loved the invitation into their romantic world of roses and a lifestyle of beautiful California weather, good friends and good food. 

the story behind the julia child rose
Danielle hahn at rose story farm

Danielle Hahn harvesting roses at Rose Story Farm. 

Danielle Hahn – A passionate Rosarian

In 2014, Danielle Hahn was honored with the Great Rosarian of the World Award XIV. That puts her in a prestigious group of world renowned rose-growing luminaries. David Austin (UK), Peter Beales (UK), Wilhelm Kordes (Germany), and Alain Meilland (France) are also members. Becoming a world-class rose-grower wasn’t always an easy path.

The Hahns are lifelong lovers of roses and gardeners. But when they started Rose Story Farm, they were untrained farmers. Growing antique and specialty roses commercially is very different than growing them in the garden, or even growing varieties of roses that are specifically bred for the cut flower industry. Rose Story Farm roses are special, they are fragrant and voluptuous in shape. Many of their customers buy them for special occasions like weddings. It is a big challenge, but they are dedicated to sustainably growing their delicate and fragrant varieties.

Julia Child was a constant source of encouragement as they learned the business. Hahn considered the iconic chef a mentor, who was generous with advice and pragmatic nurturing. (Always calling her ‘Dearie’ and always reminding Hahn that she had a rightful place in the rose world where she sometimes struggled, as a woman, to make a name for herself and her farm)

Julia and the Dall’Armi family

Julia Child and Lorenzo Dall’Armi (Danielle Hahn’s father) together at Rose Story Farm. 

Julia Child and Lorenzo Dall’Armi (Danielle Hahn’s father) in 2004 enjoying one of many quiet moments together at Rose Story Farm. 

It is no surprise that Julia Child, who for many years lived between Cambridge, MA, where her iconic TV shows were filmed, and nearby Santa Barbara, CA, was an intimate friend of Hahn’s family. Having met Hahn’s parents Lorenzo and Patricia Dall’Armi through a mutual friend, a friendship formed over food (Danielle’s father is also a passionate Italian cook), shared politics and a variety of interests. Julia and her husband, Paul, were like family, and after Paul’s passing Julia regularly joined the Hahns for Sunday dinners, family gatherings and most holiday celebrations. 

She didn’t choose the Julia Child Rose because it looks like butter

Julia Child always loved yellow roses and always requested yellow varieties when taking home bouquets. She also loved to come to the farm and walk the rows or, later in life, ride around in the garden cart and see all the blooms. For years, Hahn’s father tried to convince Child to allow them to name a rose for her, but she declined repeatedly and persistently. 

 “Julia was a PBS person. She absolutely did not like the idea of it [naming a rose for her] because she felt it was too commercial,” said Hahn. 

In her life, Child never lent her name to a line of pot and pans, a collection of knives or even a scholarship (as that would only benefit one person). Those who knew her say she felt that what she did should be available to everyone.

But Hahn’s father persisted for years, telling her how flowers and gardens are for everyone and that everyone can have and enjoy these roses.

And then one day, unannounced – as was her way – Child showed up at the farm with her niece and her lawyer and announced she was ready to pick her rose.

Julia picked a beautiful and fragrant yellow variety that Danielle Hahn had in her test garden. (Rose Story Farm serves as a test site for a variety of rose breeders who need to see how a plant performs in a variety of climates around the country). Danielle says,”She picked it because she loved fragrant yellow roses and there was no mention of it being the color of butter or, arguably  sillier, being scented of butter”. (As many popular marketing stories like to imply).

About the Julia Child Rose

Tom Carruth had developed the rose. Unbeknownst to Child and Hahn it had also already been picked as an AARS (All America Rose Selections) winner. Carruth would have to work hard to overcome challenges in the naming process. (AARS winners are very prestigious. They are rarely named after people, as no one wants these roses to be seen as too promotional). But he, too, was a passionate fan of the famed chef and did everything he could to ensure that the application was accepted. 

julia child and Danielle Hahn choosing the Julia Childs rose

Julia Child selecting her rose with Danielle. She is accompanied by her attorney William Truslow and niece Philadelphia Cousins (both just outside the frame),

The ‘Julia Child’ rose has a perfectly rounded habit and very glossy green leaves. (Named the Julia Child rose in the United States, in the Uk, it is called the “Absolutely Fabulous’ rose.) It is a disease resistant floribunda rose that is consistent, hardy and floriferous in all climates. (A rose that has disease resistance is an important consideration for chem-free rose care). It is butter gold colored. The fragrance has citrus undertones. It was named for her because she was a cherished family friend, who also loved yellow roses…and who also happened to be a much-loved iconic American chef. 

Rose Story Farm is currently distilling Julia Child roses (as well as many other distinct varieties) for culinary and cosmetic use. Purchase them directly through the farm at www.rosestoryfarm.com. 

Rose Story Farm’s Famous Lemon Cake 

CAKE 

1 C butter, softened 

2 C granulated sugar 

3 eggs at room temperature 

3 C sifted flour 

½ tsp baking soda 

½ tsp salt 

1 C buttermilk 

2 tbsp fresh grated lemon rind, packed 

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice 

1. Cream 1 cup of butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add 2 cup of sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Blend in 3 eggs, one at a time. 

2. Sift together 3 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the flour mixture, alternating with 1 cup of buttermilk, to the creamed mixture, beating after each addition. Mix in 2 tablespoons fresh grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Pour batter into greased and floured rose shaped Bundt pan. 

3. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool on rack for 10 minutes and then turn the cake out on a serving plate. Spread on the lemon icing. 

4. To prepare the glaze, blend together 2 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sifted powdered sugar. Mix in 1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon peel and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, a little at a time until desired consistency. 

A commonly asked questions about roses is what is the difference between hybrid tea roses and floribunda roses – 

Hybrid tea roses are also called large-flowered roses. They typically have only one flower per stem and tend to flower in three flushes from summer to late autumn. Floribundas (also called cluster-flowered or spray roses) have many flowers per stem and tend to repeat-flower continuously from summer to late autumn.  It. is nice to have both – particularly if you are growing them to add to flower arrangements. Julia child is a Floribunda rose – it has clusters of flowers. 

Where to Buy Julia Childs Rose

Where to shop for your own Julia Child Rose to add to your rose garden (or give these plants as gifts!). Rose Julia Child is a Weeks roses selection and is available though:

Other Rose and Roses posts:

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