Before ground was broken for their Venetian-style Sarasota mansion, Ca’ d’Zan, before all the paintings, tapestries and sculpture that would form the collection of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art were bought, Mable Ringling started her rose garden. The Italianate wagon wheel of heady aromatic roses that was completed in 1913 turns 100 this month, making it the oldest tended rose garden in Florida.
John Ringling was a tall, blunt, all-business lover of excitement and the grandiose, perfect traits for a circus magnate. His Ohio farm girl wife was a pretty, petite and gracious lover of flowers, who was also an avid reader and a quick and lifelong learner. The couple traveled throughout Europe. While John scouted new acts for the family’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” Mable spent her time in museums honing her taste. Together they bought what pleased them, especially in Italy.
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