Roses have been a part of every milestone occasion in my life. From my first wrist corsage at a high school dance to wedding bouquets, Valentine’s gifts, Mothers’ Day, birthdays, anniversaries, holiday dinner centerpieces, the list just goes on — creating memories and a “scent”-imental journey.
One of my greatest joys when I became a California homeowner after relocating from snowy Chicago was to create my own year-round rose gardens. I loved the idea that I would not have to wait for a suitor to arrive with bouquet in hand or the doorbell to ring with a delivery. Instead, I could walk out my door and create my own bouquets.
To help with this task, I sought the guidance of Dani Hahn, who, with her husband, Dr. Bill Hahn, started Rose Story Farm in the eastern Carpinteria Valley more than 20 years ago. Together, Hahn and I have landscaped all my yards, planting and cultivating my beloved roses from Rose Story Farm as the centerpieces of my gardens and tranquil spots for relaxation.
Because of Montecito’s many micro-climates, each new home posed a different challenge. Under Hahn’s supervision we discussed, shape, design and my color palette before making any choices. Final selections were always made based on topography, garden type and my budget. (God, I hate that word!)
Even though I don’t have a green thumb, “Roses are magical and forgiving, and they repay any effort on their behalf tenfold,” Hahn would say.
Rose Story Farm was born when the Hahns purchased an old Victorian house in 1998 on Foothill Road in Carpinteria and decided to try growing 1,000 rose bushes on a half-acre of their lemon and avocado ranch. Both Hahns grew up in families that were wild about gardening, and their grandmothers were all rosarians.
While self-taught in the rose business, Hahn had a marketing background from 25 years of operating and owning gift and children’s clothing shops on Montecito’s Coast Village Road. A graduate of Stanford University, she pored over rose books and catalogues to select her favorite 1,000 rose bushes — as if writing a research paper. Memories of her grandmothers’ gardens inspired her to select mainly Old World roses with enticing scents.
Rose Story Farm is a uniquely family-owned business. While her husband, a gastroenterologist at Sansum Clinic, is in charge of growing operations, Hahn manages their rose-themed gift shop with mom Patty, leads tours twice weekly, and throughout the year gives a variety of seminars on garden design, rose cultivation and flower arranging.
Hahn also works with vendors, organizes on-site events — weddings, fundraisers, luncheons — and oversees the farm’s romantic vacation rental cottages. Even their now-young adult sons, Will and Geoffrey, and her parents are involved with the retail gift shop, the gardens or wherever needed.
The farm is open to the public, and guests can visit the nursery and tour the gardens. The best time to go is between April and October when roses are in-season, as education is an important part of Rose Story Farms’ identity.
In the beginning, the Hahns imagined an old-fashioned rose farm with the radiant hues of European, David Austin and pre-1950 American varieties in bloom across their 15-acre spread.
“Our mission from Day One was to produce beautiful, fragrant, romantic roses in exquisite shapes and colors,” Hahn said. “We are dedicated to producing the highest quality, 100 percent organic roses in our gardens.”
Rose Story Farm now grows 18,000 rose bushes from more than 120 varieties.
“Almost all our roses are pre-1950s, with unusual shapes,and colors and fragrances, such as citrus, honey, licorice, apple and myrrh,” she explained. “The commercial hybridizers have bred out for the sale of certain forms and vase longevity.”
The colors that Hahn chooses to grow are ones that go well for weddings: peach, white, apricot, blush and ivory; jewel tones to enhance interior designs; and bicoloreds, which she predicts will become increasingly popular for their beauty and versatility.
Rose Story Farm has also created a market for fresh rose petals for weddings, shaping into a floor covering or even for tossing into the ocean at a family farewell for a loved one. The well-trained staff can send roses anywhere.
And a new fragrance program, including petal distillation seminars and products using their rose fragrances, has introduced an additional sweet smell of success.
Hahn is an active member of the Santa Barbara Rose Society, the American Rose Society and the Garden Club of America in Santa Barbara. She has had articles published in the 2012 American Rose Annual on both flower arranging and garden design. She also has been featured in a multitude of glossy magazines — Santa Barbara Magazine, Wine Country Living, Sunset, Victoria Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Veranda — as well as The Wall Street Journal.
Hahn’s latest award — and most prestigious to date — was winning top honors as Great Rosarian of the World in 2014. At a ceremony earlier this month at The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, she was hailed “for her dedication to promoting the rose through Rose Story Farm, growing roses, educating the public on roses, and her efforts to revitalize the use of roses in the landscape throughout the country.”
The awards committee called Rose Story Farm a prime model for the future of small family farms, highlighting the advantages of specializing in niche areas. Hahn also was lauded for expanding her business to include the valuable component of educational tours, which help educate her audience with the knowledge to grow healthy roses successfully.
Always modest, Hahn expressed “her immense surprise and gratitude for the award.” One of the few female recipients of the honor, she joins an amazing group of past recipients that include David Austin, Peter Beales and Alain Meilland.
“Each day I have the opportunity to see, smell, touch and, most important, share our roses with family, friends and fellow rose enthusiasts,” she said.
The Manhattan Rose Society will also honor Hahn in June at the ninth annual New York Metropolitan Rose Council Dinner in New York City.
Rose Story Farm is open for tours Fridays and Saturdays from mid-April to November, and its gift shop is open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, or by appointment. Click here for more information, or call 805.566.4885.