In 2007, Fallon Shea Anderson had green hair, a melancholy outlook, and a job in retail. The then-19-year-old was perpetually dawdling at the sidewalk sale rack—wishing more than anything to be outdoors—until she took a friend’s suggestion to check out a wholesale rose farm in California’s Sonoma County. “The owners found me in their fields, sniffing flowers,” she says, “and begging for a job.” Impressed by her enthusiasm, they hired Anderson on the spot.
Lacking any previous experience, it was trial by fire. The teenager had more than 5 acres and at least 5,000 roses to oversee, so Anderson hunted down rosarians and read every book she could find to educate herself. Eleven years later, she can now tell you that a rose’s scent is strongest three hours after sunrise, that thorns range from bristly to wide and transparent, and that leaves are as individual as thumbprints. “I don’t know the names of many other plants besides roses,” says Anderson, today a consultant on rose cultivation and floral design in Southern California. “And I know almost all of their names.”
Anderson’s obsession dovetails perfectly with the current rose resurgence. And we’re not talking about the bright red, long-stemmed, will-you-accept-this-rose rose. Those varieties (often greenhouse-grown in South America) are bred to be standardized and perfect. They’re scentless and tend to rot before they open. “During the past few decades, the idea of luxury was such that the flowers were perfect,” says Sarah Ryhanen, founding director of Saipua, a New York City floral boutique at the forefront of garden-inspired design. From 2012 to 2016, Anderson shipped her roses to Ryhanen’s studio, creating a cross-country bond between two like-minded flower lovers. “My work is a rejection of perfect. I am interested in seeing flowers in their wild, natural state,” she says, “and Fallon’s roses were simply bar none.”
What’s old is new again, but how to best get your hands on stems? “Grow your own,” says Anderson, who now consults from San Diego, where dormancy is just two to three months. Roses have never been so accessible: Modern-day hybridizing allows the cultivation of classic roses, but on repeat-blooming, disease-resistant bushes. “Roses aren’t the fussy divas they used to be. They’re actually totally functional features of the landscape.” Just be careful, she says: “It’s an addiction.”