Rose Garden


I’ve always loved the outdoors and being outside, whether I’m relaxing at a park, sitting on the porch listening to the birds and watching it rain, taking pictures or (years ago) sitting in my wheelchair at the end of a row in my grandparents’ garden, watching my grandpa and grandmother pick squash, beans, peas, tomatoes or okra. One thing I really wish I was able to do is help my grandparents when I was younger, in their garden planting or picking vegetables. It really made me sad that just because I am physically disabled and in a wheelchair I wasn’t able to help my grandparents do something they loved.

About a year or so ago I met a wonderful woman named Susan on Twitter and she and I got to talking and she has written a beautiful post that is sure to inspire anyone who faces physical challenges, no matter what they are. After reading this post I hope one day my garden will grow as beautiful as my grandparents’ did years ago.

IMG_0645My mother had osteoarthritis. As she became less able to work in the garden we became attached at the hip when it was time to prune the roses. She would keep me company while I worked in the rose garden and work in the yard. She taught me the art of pruning. I miss her every time I prune the roses. This is how it all began. When I was a girl my mother loved to be in the yard and wanted me to help her. I wanted no part of it. I hated weeding. I didn’t understand why she liked it. It wasn’t until I had my own yard, and inherited her rose garden that everything was different, as is often the case, isn’t it? For me, rose growing and gardening is a passion, not a hobby or a past time.

Lots of things are very important to me — a love of gardening, kids and having fun while spending time with both. Inheriting my childhood home and my mother’s rose garden in Northern Illinois, I needed to learn quickly how to take care of the garden. There was a beautiful rose garden in Libertyville, Illinois, and the Libertyville Men’s Garden Club took care of it so I thought that would be a good place to ask how to take care of roses. That was the beginning of a lifelong passion I now have for growing, taking care of and showing roses.

Rose growing has for many years been the passion and hobby of royalty from the ancient Chinese to the most splendid gardens of royalty throughout the world. Rose gardens grace the lands of the rich and famous to landed gentry throughout the globe. All are drawn together by the common bond of the most mystical and romantic of flowers, the rose. Although perceived as difficult to grow and maintain, roses are both hearty and forgiving to the best-meaning novice.

What happened next when I went to the Libertyville Men’s Garden Club and asked for their assistance is memorable. Len Arthur, who was a tenured member of the club and called himself an octogenarian rosarian, painstakingly began to cultivate a future rosarian from raw talent, me. With speech and movement, labored and slow as a nocturnal sloth, Mr. Arthur spoke and I listened, passing the craft onto the next generation. Mr. Arthur encouraged me to begin showing roses in local rose shows in a society that was largely male dominated at the time by doctors and scientists. One of my high points was having the garden featured on the Northern Illinois Rose Growers Garden Tour and a particularly talented rose sage commenting, “You have achieved perfect rose culture.” Sweeping many shows with blue ribbons as a novice, I was encouraged by Len and other senior members of the society to enter a national show in which I won a trophy for best Climbing Rose, Tempo.

GagaGarden1The story of Tempo is an amazing story that needs to be told. My son, Michael, worked at an auto dealership for the summer in Northern Illinois. Knowing my love of roses, and of course walking along the sidewalk past the rose garden everyday, one beautiful Saturday morning Michael called and insisted that I come over to the car dealership and test drive a Pontiac Tempo. Anyone that went for a test drive would receive a complimentary Jackson & Perkins Tempo climbing rose bush. Touched by Michael’s observance of my passion I went for the test drive and came home with the rose bush in hand. That bush, planted and fertilized by organics of eggshells and coffee grounds, grew to be a most spectacular specimen. That year the Northern Illinois Rose Society hosted the American Rose Society’s (ARS) National Convention, and I entered Tempo in the Best Climber category. The rest is history. Tempo was selected “Best Climber” in show. 

Did You Know . . . the wonderful inspiring fragrance of rose has a scientific basis? The unmistakable fragrance is the plant’s precious essential oil evaporating from its petals. About 60,000 roses yield one ounce of 100 percent pure rose essential oil, making it one of the most costly aromatherapy oils. No wonder rose oil was a gift of royalty. The garden is a gathering place. Gardens everywhere are made accessible for handicapped people. People such as my mother with osteoarthritis and Mr. Arthur, who was 88 years old, made and continue to make a tremendous contribution to the gardening community. Last year on Blog Talk Radio #RoseChat we interviewed Jack Walter, of Kimbrew Walter Roses, Grand Saline, Texas who is 89 years old and the recipient of the American Rose Society Gold Honor Medal. In spite of physical challenges gardening has something to offer all people and enriches us spiritually.

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