Rosy Beginnings

     My interest in roses began when I moved into my first ground level suite. I was in my early thirties, this was a brand new housing development and I had a patio with a small yard at my disposal. The little backyard was grassed and backed by a fence. It seemed barren to me. I knew I wanted a garden there.

     I knew nothing of types of soils, how much sunlight and certainly ‘fertilizer’ did not cross my mind. But I did have a vision of how I wanted it to look. I imagined a bed of flowers along the fence, another one along a partition, some container plants on the patio and more flowers under the main window. I wanted splashes of color and climbing plants around the living room window. Above all I wanted fragrance. I began imagining what types of perfumes enticed me and lifted my mood. As a result I did two things, went to plant nurseries and the library for ideas. I found my fragrant preliminary choices: lilies, sweet peas and roses.

     I realized that lilies and sweet peas were going to be relatively easy to grow. Lilies were exceptionally hardy, just plunk them into the ground and they would succeed. Sweet peas could be planted in early spring (zone 8) and they would sprout in a matter of weeks. And roses, well.digging a hole and putting them in was simple enough. What more would they need?

So I set to the task. I acquired a sturdy shovel and began to cut into the grass and take off the top layers of turf and soil. There were some obstacles to overcome, namely large rocks and roots from the neighbouring maple trees. I also noticed that the soil I was digging seemed so much like beach sand. It occurred to me that we were situated on an old river delta. I also noticed that when it rained the water would percolate very rapidly through this sand. I decided that some better soil would probably assist in creating a decent environment for the plants. I went out to the local nursery and bought bags and bags of potting and planter soils. It looked very rich and dark and felt nice and moist in my hands. I filled the trenches with it and heaved the sandy soil over the fence. Now I had wonderful dark brown beds waiting for occupants.

     It was autumn and roses were scarce. Most of the leftover plants seemed mangy and did not attract my interest. I bought a minimum of plants, mainly lilies (in bulb form) a few mums and spring bulbs. I am glad I was not overly ambitious at first because this gave me a chance to see how things grow and respond to climate, soil and nurturing. Over winter I read a lot of books about gardening. And once again my eyes were diverted to the beauty of roses. I read about species roses; the very wild and uncultivated roses of the world. With great interest I read about old-fashioned roses and the people of history whose passion it was to cultivate and breed them. The descriptions and photography became the lure, which captured my heart. I was determined to try to create a rose garden once spring arrived.


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