Today is the birthday of the German Austrian rosarian Rudolf Geschwind who was born on this day in 1829.
As a child, Geschwind loved gardening. As a young man, he studied Forestry, and his first job was working for the Austro-Hungarian Department of Forestry. Although he performed excellent work in the field of forestry, Geschwind's true passion was roses.
At the age of 30, Geschwind began experimenting with breeding roses. It was a pursuit he would perfect over the next five decades. Geschwind's specialty was breeding roses that were frost resistant. Geschwind created close to 150 rose cultivars. His prized collection of climbing roses were displayed at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris.
When Geschwind died in 1910, the Countess Maria-Henrieta Chotek, known as "The Countess of Roses," or "The Pink Countess," purchased Geschwind's entire collection - including some which had never been made public. As a member of one of the most distinguished families of the Czechnobility, Chotek had the means to handle this impressive transfer. In fact, Chotek was so serious about the effort to preserve Geschwind's work that she sent two of her gardeners to oversee the transfer of the collection. It was no small affair - it involved packing and moving over 2,000 roses to her estate - the Manor House or Castle known as Dolna Krupa. Over a century before, Dolna Krupa was the place where Beethoven is presumed to have written his Moonlight Sonata. Maria-Henrieta's great grandfather, Jozef, was friends with Beethoven, and he allowed Beethoven to live at Dolna Krupa for nearly a decade.
Maria-Henrieta Chotek was born almost 60 years after Beethoven's stay at Dolna Krupa in 1863. As a woman who never married, her inheritance allowed her to pursue her passion for roses with abandon - and she did. She was in her 30's when she inherited Dolna Krupa. Once it was all hers, she set about creating one of the top three rosaria in Europe. During its prime, the rosaria at Dolna Krupa rivaled the rosaria in France and the Rosarium of Sangerhausen in Germany.
Chotek was a woman of action, and she didn't just direct activities - she was very hands-on. As a rosarian herself, Chotek developed new cultivars and conducted experiments. One time while visiting an exhibition, Chotek watched as a German horticulturist named Johannes Böttner presented a rambling rose called the Fragezeichen which means the "Question Mark." (What a great name!) The rose intrigued Henrieta Chotek so much, that she immediately left for Frankfurt to see the Fragezeichen trials personally.
The year 1914 marked a turning point in Chotek's life and the fate of many of Geschwind's roses. That year, in June, the Rose Congress was held at Zweibrücken. Chotek's work and rosaria were honored. But in the days following the event, Marie Henrieta's cousin, Sophie Chotek Ferdinand, wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was murdered alongside her husband in Sarajevo and World War I had begun. Chotek swung into action, this time as a nurse caring for wounded soldiers. When the war was over, her rosarium was destroyed.
Chotek immediately set about rebuilding her rosarium. She even began a rose breeding school right on the grounds pf Dolna Krupa. But, lacking the means and the energy of youth, Chotek was never able to restore Dolna Krupa to its former glory. During WWII, Dolna Krupa was ransacked by the Russian Army. In February 1946, destitute and sick, Chotek died while in the care of nuns. She was 83 years old.
Today, the Music Museum at Dolna Krupa holds a Rose Celebration in honor of Chotek. Tourists visit Dolna Krupa, primarily to see the place Beethoven lived. Visitors bring baskets and collect leaves of the wild garlic that grows rampant on the grounds of the estate.