Did you know that Luxembourg was referred to as Rose Country in the late 19th and early 20th century? In 1855, two young gardeners began specialising in rose growing in Limpertsberg. The remarkable creations cultivated in their nursery won a host of international prizes and the business soon flourished. Their success paved the way for other companies, and by the early 1900s Luxembourg had become a centre for rose breeding, with more than 260 new rose varieties developed in the country!
The golden age of Luxembourg roses: from Limpertsberg to the world
The Limpertsberg district is inseparable from roses in Luxembourg. A brief look at the historical background can give us a clearer idea as to why the first rose-growing entrepreneurs chose this particular spot. Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the London Conference in 1838, Luxembourg's neutrality and independence were secure. The former military areas around the glacis and Limpertsberg, where no building projects had been permitted for strategic reasons, were now available, and those visionaries began moving to the area in the 1850s.
Jean Soupert and Pierre Notting were two young gardeners who specialised in rose growing, and they set up their nursery in 1855. Their outstanding creations won several prizes in international competitions and attracted wealthy customers looking for the luxuries of the time. Other rose breeders then began to move to Limpertsberg: the Ketten brothers and Charles Gemen, together with Soupert and Notting, were the most widely known, well beyond the borders of Luxembourg.
By 1900, the roses grown in Luxembourg were exported all over the world, up to 10 million plants each year! They catered to a prestigious clientele including kings, princes and presidents... Roses from Luxembourg even adorned the garden of the Tsar in St Petersburg!
The First World War brought the heyday of Luxembourg roses to an end. The lack of male workers and the financial difficulties experienced by customers contributed to the decline, but the main reason was the political and economic embargo imposed on a country that was part of the Deutsche Zollverein. As a member of the German Customs Union since 1842, Luxembourg was seen as an enemy country. French customers, who before the war represented approximately 75% of the rose growers' sales, no longer dared place their orders, and the market collapsed.
The post-war economic recession, phylloxera in the 1920s – which attacked roses and vines all over Europe – and the Second World War sounded the death knell for the golden age of Luxembourg roses.
Resurgence of the rose tradition in Luxembourg
The love story between the people of Luxembourg and their roses was too strong to fade away without a trace, despite the setbacks. Since the 1980s, several collectives have rekindled a passion for roses.
The Lëtzebuerger Rosefrënn association, set up in 1980 to promote rose growing, was responsible for developing a rose garden at the Munsbach Castle in 2017. The garden is accessible to the public free of charge all year round, so make sure you don't miss it!
The main aim of the Patrimoine roses pour le Luxembourg association is to revive Luxembourg's rose-growing tradition in people's minds, hearts and gardens. It offers training sessions on how to prune roses, tours of rose gardens and initiatives to raise awareness of this rich heritage among young people.
Have you heard of Anne Beffort?
Born in Neudorf in 1880, Anne Beffort was a pioneer. She was the first female secondary school teacher in Luxembourg and the first Luxembourgish woman to obtain a doctorate, in 1909. She also co-founded the Lycée de Jeunes Filles in Luxembourg.
The rose-growing community recently decided to honour her memory: in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of her appointment as Luxembourg's first female secondary school teacher in 1919, Patrimoine roses pour le Luxembourg named a rose in her honour. The Anne Beffort rose is a climbing, fragrant variety, salmon pink, a prolific bloomer and highly resistant – a fitting tribute to a formidable woman.
The legacy of Luxembourg's rose tradition today, in Limpertsberg and in everyday life
You have probably strolled past the former rose gardens in Limpertsberg without even realising it. The nurseries of internationally acclaimed rose breeders such as Soupert-Notting, Ketten and Gemen were once found between Avenue de la Faïencerie and Avenue Victor Hugo.
Although these plantations no longer exist, the district still bears the legacy of Luxembourg's rose-growing heyday. The RosaLi circular walk is a great way of exploring this heritage. For example:
- In Notre-Dame Cemetery, roses can be seen in all their natural beauty and also depicted in architecture.
- The former Soupert-Notting house is on Avenue de la Faïencerie. This large Neo-Gothic edifice was the residence and workplace of the famous rose growers and their descendants from 1861 to 1989. The building now houses the University of Luxembourg's Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance.
- Avenue du Bois features several front gardens planted with roses. Beautiful Art Nouveau façades and sculpted roses can be seen (e.g. at number 73).
- Several streets have been named after rose growers and roses, including rue Melchior Bourg-Gemen, rue Evrard Ketten, rue Jean Soupert, rue des Roses and rond-point des Roses.
Limpertsberg is not the only place with rose gardens: other fine examples are open to visitors in Mersch, Mondorf, Walferdange and Esch-sur-Alzette.
Roses also find their way into our daily lives in the most unexpected places – for example in the Beurre Rose produced by Luxlait, with its protected designation of origin recipe that has stayed the same since 1932.
Luxembourg's rose tradition is clearly very much alive and well... and the future is looking decidedly rosy!