OLD LADIES LOVE ROSES

Chic is a French word that defines a quality of style- elegant, sophisticated, aesthetic. It isn't about money. Affluence can be displayed in a way most vulgar and unattractive,
David Austen
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OLD LADIES LOVE ROSES

My grandmother was a gardener. It was an important part of who she was both creatively and socially. An impoverished farmer’s daughter by birth, she grew up to become the cultured wife of a prominent business man. Her interest in gardening remained strong spanning several decades as she segued from ‘tators to roses, joining her local gardening club and becoming credentialed as a judge I community rose shows.  

 The passion was passed to my mother. When she spoke the word “roses” it was with love and reverence. The yearly hard prune was almost ceremonial and deadheading was performed religiously throughout the blooming season. 

 HONOR THY MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER’S LOVE OF ROSES

 When I purchased my first home, a 1910 Craftsman bungalow on a large lot, I restored the interior, rescuing it from its acoustic tile ceilings and pink shag carpeted floors and then attacked the garden.  

I was fortunate to live near a wonderful nursery which carried a huge array of plants and was staffed by bright, knowledge people. I first focused on my shady areas, choosing delicate ferns, white callas and sweet mosses. I then tackled the problem of complimenting my shady east front bed with my sunny west front bed. Thanks to the experts at the nursery, I was able to accomplish this with some tougher ferns.

 Then, I turned my attention to honoring my grandmother and my mother. I had never understood their affinity for roses. While growing up, I had little contact with my grandmother so I wasn’t really familiar with the roses she loved which were probably more characteristic of wild roses. By the time I noticed my mother’s, they had been hybridized to an unnatural perfection. The Kool-aid colors and the uniform blossoms looked like the Made in China polyester ones that you see before Valentine’s day at The Dollar Store. 

 THE GRANDDAUGHTER’S LOVE OF ROSES

 When I was a child, in the early 1950s in England, horticulturalist David Austin set out to create a more beautiful, fragrant rose by combining the delicate charm and wonderful fragrances of the old fashioned rose with the wider color range and repeat-flowering nature of modern roses. By the time I was creating my bungalow garden, these roses had immigrated and I fell in love with their Old English faces. They are packed with petals and offer a full range of subtle, elegant color. (I just took a Pinterest break and pinned many of their cabbage countenances to my new David Austen board!)

 I planted a row of white Winchester Cathedrals beside my long driveway. Their loose petals are delightfully reminiscent of Old Roses with hints of honey and almond blossom.  At a flea market, I had met a fellow who built furniture out of willow branches.  I commissioned 2 rockers from him for my front porch and invited him to help me decide what else he might construct to enhance my cottage style garden. We decided upon a bench to circle my large pine and a fence with an arbor in front. I designed these for him and he followed my instructions perfectly. They were installed and I then planted more Austens to peek through the fence. I installed honeysuckle to grow up the arbor because a girl can’t have too much fragrance!

 BUNGALOW BOOKS AND ROSES. HONEYSUCKLE TOO!

When I was under contract for my Craftsman, I had gotten cold feet, concerned about the expense of owning such an old house. My main worry was the kitchen. It had been updated in the 80’s, complete with a pop-out vinyl window over the sink and I was a maniac for original kitchens- well, everything actually! One evening I was browsing in a bookstore and spied an Oldhouse Journal. The picture on the front was of a lovely love girl holding a teapot in an old kitchen. At the bottom of the page, the article was announced- “Bungalow-era KITCHENS on a budget.”  I grabbed it! Inside was an article by Jane Powell, “How one repeat restorer came up with a formula for putting attractive (and inexpensive) kitchens in her period bungalows.’

 Some other time I’ll tell you about how that article changed my whole life, including having the privilege of counting Jane as a dear friend, but for now, I’ll just let you know that I went through with the purchase of the house, restored it, and 4 years later, Jane, the author of the kitchen article, and her photographer, Linda Svendson came to shoot the it for their series of books on bungalows.

The way that fits into this story is that I had hired a friend to help me prep the gardens prior to the shoot. Her instructions were to untangle the honeysuckle that was growing in a mound over the fence, and drape it gently over the arbor so that you could walk under and through the sweet little yellow and white blooms. That’s why you have an arbor, right? I armed her with plant ties and went inside to work on the interior. An hour later I went out again to see that she had pruned away the whole mound of growth! It was lying there on the ground in a flowery pile. There was nothing left to drape over the arbor! Heartbroken, I fired her and then just sat and cried for about 2 hours.

 My mother was due to visit the next day. At this time, she was 80 and not very steady on her feet. My most clear and cherished memory I have is of my mother, standing feet spread wide for balance, in her walker, strand by strand gently stretching what little honeysuckle remained after the butchering, coaxing it onto the arbor. She loved plants and she loved her daughter and she was determined to rescue both for the photo shoot.

 I am very sorry that I didn’t click a photo of her that day. You’re just going to have imagine it with me.

 Thank you, Mom!