Father George M. A. Schoener, the "Padre of the Roses", was born in 1864. In 1870, he and his family returned to their native country, Switzerland, in order to provide their son with a good education. At the age of sixteen, he was sent to Maria Einsiedeln, a Benedictine monastary where he studied art and architecture. However, instead of pursuing a career as an artist, he entered the priesthood and returned to America. In 1889, he became the parish priest for St. Cecilia's in Rochester, Pennsylvania where he directed the building of a new church. His work on the building project took a toll on his health. As a result of his poor health, he left St. Cecilia's and became a parish priest in Brooks, Oregon.
Schoener first became interested in roses while he at Brooks and began to breed them in his garden. In a few years he was well known for his new breeds of roses and fruit trees. Then, after a fire in 1915 that burned his parish and gardens, Schoener went to Portland, Oregon, to work in McKenna Park. Soon after, his reputation in research got him an invitation to continue his experiments in Santa Barbara, California, where he worked for twenty years. It was here where he earned his title as the "Padre of the Roses," a title known throughout the United States. Some roses he bred were over twenty feet tall; another was almost black; and one had petals with two colors, yellow on top and red underneath. He also experimented with different fruits. A rose-apple, a raspberry with vanilla flavor, and an apple with the flavor and color of an orange are but some of his hybrids.
In 1938, Schoener left his gardens in Santa Barbara because he could not raise enough money to support his work. At the age of seventy-three, Schoener accepted an invitation to work at the University of Santa Clara. He wanted all of his roses brought to Santa Clara so that he could continue his research. By this time he had over 5000 different varieties of roses. However, most of them were never planted because Schoener was unable to direct the work himself. He had many complaints against the administration and was never satisfied with his treatment at the university. He became ill and died on February 10, 1941 of a heart ailment.
The Schoener Collection contains photographs, correspondence, poems both in German and English, and articles on rose breeding and horticulture. There also exist approximately thirty notebooks containing rough drafts of articles and personal thoughts. Included in the papers is Schoener's manual on Church doctrine, which was never published. He ordered the remainder of his papers to be burned after his death. The Collection also includes a biography of Schoener by B. Russel based on Schoener's recollections.
This online collection contains a selection of works from the George M.A. Schoener Collection. The physical collection is described here: