Rose Garden - My Grandpa's

Grandpa's house up the hill
Grandpa's house up the hill
...more like an elf than a Grandpa
...more like an elf than a Grandpa

My Grandfather's Rose Garden

My Grandfather’s rose garden. Hidden away, with an abundance of blooms in every color and fragrance. A secret garden. The funny thing is I didn’t even know it existed until I was about 10 years old. No, I wasn’t daft. Let me explain. My grandparents lived in a section of Glendale, NY called the “seven hills” by the locals. Glendale is mostly flat except for the seven hills. These seven hills are each streets and they border on Cypress Hills, NY. (As an aside, Houdini is buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery.) Anyway, you go up the hill to see my Grandparents, at least that’s what my family always said. When you get there you see rows of one family houses in a neighborhood that normally has two or four family houses. Each house is almost identical. A small front lawn with not a weed in sight, a driveway separating one house from the next and a concrete backyard leading to a garage. No place for a rose garden. Next to the garage is a narrow walkway that allows the home owner to care for the side of his garage. What I didn’t know, until I was 10, was that walkway led to a patch of land behind the garage – in my grandfather’s case, the Rose Garden.

There was no reason to go behind the garage unless you were invited, or you knew there was a rose garden there. My first visit to the rose garden stands out in my mind and senses to this day. My Grandfather invited me to walk with him behind the garage. I couldn’t imagine why, he'd never asked before, but no one ever refused my grandfather. He was about five feet tall with the most beautiful curly white hair with a middle part. He wore glasses and always had a smile on his lips and twinkle in his eye - he was more like an elf than a grandfather. So, behind the garage we went. I felt like I had stepped into a world totally different from the world I’d just left. It wasn’t very large but it was filled with rows of the most beautiful and fragrant roses I had ever seen (or smelled.) Each bush was healthy and in different stages of blooming. Name a color, that rose was there. There were reds, whites, yellows, pinks, bi-color peach and white, bi-color pink and white, large floribundas, full blown hybrid teas and more. It was incredible. I had never seen so many roses blooming in one place. How had this happened?

My father later explained that roses were Grandpa’s passion. He was a sewing machine mechanic before he retired and was very skilled in precision work. After he retired he had started the garden with only one or two rose bushes from Jackson&Perkins. At that time Jackson&Perkins was the Cadillac of rose producers. Grandpa then began to read about roses and their care, remember the precision skill? I think it led to a bit of OCD. He learned all about the type of soil that best suited roses. He found out by trial and error which fertilizer worked best. He knew what type of insecticide killed the bugs but left the bushes healthy. As he learned he expanded his garden. One row led to another until he ran out of space for his rows. Every day he visited his rose garden to care for and nurture it. In addition to the watering, fertilizing, and insect watching he pruned. Diseased and damaged wood always needed to be pruned away but only at the right time. Some roses needed pruning to produce bigger blooms others just to keep the disease away. Roses should be pruned back in early spring before they start to bloom. During the growing season when you want to cut roses to bring them inside you can do a little pruning if you're careful. Always cut just above an eight leaf leave cluster and cut on a slight angle. Whether pruning back or just cutting roses it is really a good idea to wear a pair of good gloves. While roses are lovely their thorns are very piercing and while your busy cutting you don't notice the throns till they get you, but Grandpa knew all this.

Grandpa showing his first rose of the season
Grandpa showing his first rose of the season
Year one.  Year two the roses didn't look this good.
Year one. Year two the roses didn't look this good.
Better Homes and Gardens Rose Gardening (Better Homes and Gardens Gardening)
Better Homes and Gardens Rose Gardening (Better Homes and Gardens Gardening)

Great ideas and down-to-earth wisdom on rose gardening from Better Homes and Gardens and the American Rose Society

 
Roses For Dummies
Roses For Dummies

Despite all the (ahem) thorny particulars, gardeners still love to grow these beautiful flowers that would by any other name still smell as sweet. Roses for Dummies Roses for Dummies does away with the myth that roses have to be high maintenance, instead showing how to choose a type that will blossom in your care

 

Wild, Old, and Modern Roses

Roses are susceptible to so many bugs and diseases; black spot, mold, fungus, red spiders, and chafers to name a few. Many of today’s hybrid roses are hardy and not susceptible to these rose problems but back then most roses were. However, there was none of that in Grandpa’s rose garden. I don’t know if he used sulfur or a specific insecticide but I do know he handpicked bugs off when he found them. There were no threats in Grandpa’s rose garden, he wouldn’t allow them.

Roses are a lot like people, treat them right and they’ll flourish leave them alone and they’ll shrivel up and often die. Some roses need full sun, some prefer partial shade. Some roses are climbers, some bushes, some shrubs. If you don’t know what kind of rose you have and what type of care it needs, you can lose it the first year you plant it. That never happened in Grandpa’s rose garden, he wouldn’t allow it.

There are roses going back before the 16th Century! Everyone loves roses. Roses have three main classifications; Wild, Old, and Modern. Wild roses usually bloom only one time while Old roses are usually repeat bloomers. Within the Old rose classification there are additional classifications such as Bourbon, China, and Hybrid Perpetuals. Modern roses really run the gamut. Hybridizing has allowed roses to do things they never did before. Within the Modern classification are additional classifications such as Climbing Roses, Hybrid Tea, Miniature Roses, Shrub Roses and Rambling Roses. Grandpa had volumes of books on roses and their care.

Some roses provide double, scented flowers, some have a single rose on a stem while others grow roses in clusters. Each rose is as different as the bush it grows on. Even roses on the same bush are never exactly alike. They have a delicate appearance that appeals to the eye.


Education About Roses

Now that I'd seen these beautiful roses and learned a little, remember sometimes a little information can be a dangerous thing, I decided I would have roses when I grew up. When my husband and I bought our home many years ago and many years after my first visit to Grandpa's rose garden, the first thing I wanted to plant was of course, a rose bush. It had to be beautiful so I ordered three rose bushes from Jackson & Perkins. Being a novice I thought I should really start with one but there was a sale so I bought the three and gave two to my father. My father had some beautiful rose bushes too, but nothing compares to Granpa's rose garden. Though we live in the same town only two miles apart, our dirt is very different from my father's. His is real dirt with nutrients and water holding capabilities, mine is pure sand. Okay, I know sand isn't good for roses so I bought peat moss and worked it into the soil before I planted my rose bush. Now the education really begins to pick up. I watered and cared for the rose bush and was rewareded with beautiful flowers -- the first year. It bloomed the entire summer with rose after rose. The second year, one rose! Okay, maybe a faulty bush. I tried another. This time I used more peat moss, bought special rose food and insecticide. Carefully planted and cared for again the rose bush bloomed beautifully the first year. I did notice though neither rose bush had the fragrance of my Grandpa's roses. Remember way back in the beginning of this article I mentioned hybridizing? Well, it seems while rose hybridizers were going for the perfect bloom and the disease resistant bush they hybridized the beautiful scent right out of the rose! Now, over 40 years later, they are starting to realize people really miss the scent so they are hybridizing the scent back into the rose. You have to carefully read the label when you buy a rose bush to make sure it says 'strong scent' or 'very fragrant' to get a rose anywhere near as fragrant as my Grandpa's, but I digress. For three or four years I planted rose bush after rose bush and every time I got the same results, first year great, second year one flower. Isn't that the sign of an idiot? Someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over expecting different results? Well it finally dawned on me that this was not going to work. No more Jackson&Perkins catalogs for me. Part of my education included how hardy or rather not hardy a rose bush can be. Some just can't survive the winters of the northeast and this may have been one of the reasons I couldn't get mine to survive AND thrive. Remember tho, rose bushes are in my blood and roses are just so beautiful.

To the left of the bench is my pink rose bush, it's second year.
To the left of the bench is my pink rose bush, it's second year.

Rose Bush Continues to Grow

One day I'm shopping in K-Mart and there's a sale on some end of season rose bushes. Pictures of the flowers are vague but hey, it's a rose bush and it's cheap. Since the expensive roses don't bloom for me, why not try a cheap one. This time I figure, even though I know rose bushes need at least 6 hours of sun, maybe mine were getting too much sun, especially with the sandy soil. So I plant this rose bush on the north side of my house, probably the worst place to plant a rose bush but I'm pulling out all the stops this time. The first year this rose bush was covered from head to toe in tiny blood red roses. Wave after wave from late July (when I bought the bush) right through to October. It was a lovely thing to behold but I knew it was only year one. The spring of year two begins and just like always the leaves begin to appear on the bush. It begins to fill out and by mid-June little tiny buds appear. Not just one bud but lots of little tiny buds. Can this be a fluke I wonder? Time will tell. By the beginning of July this bush is loaded with little red roses in year two! I am amazed. What's more amazing is care is minimum. The biggest issue is deadheading. Deadheadihng is cutting the dead blooms off so new ones can grow. If you don't deadhead it won't hurt the bush but you won't get as many roses. Since these tiny roses grow in clusters there are so many roses on this bush at any given time it takes an hour to deadhead which needs to be done every couple of days but you have to know I'm in my glory. It's wonderful. Of course there is very little fragrance. If you put your nose to one of those tiny roses you get a hint of the real rose smell but that's about it. I don't care, I finally have roses.

This rose bush is so incredible I want another one so I go on a search. The only place I can find it again? K-Mart! This time I get a pink and plant it by my small pond. The glorious thing is, a repeat performance. This rose bush grows like the red one. Bloom after bloom from June through October. It is phenomenal! Not only do these two rose bushes continue to grow and bloom after more than 20 years, I have to trim them back to keep them at a height not greater than five to six feet or I can't reach to deadhead them. Everyone who walks into my backyard is amazed at how lovely they look. (Eat your heart out Jackson&Perkins) I occasionally feed them and treat them for bugs but unbelievably even if I forget and the bugs eat the leaves I still get blooms. These are really incredible bushes. I miss the beautiful multi-petalled flowers of a real rose bush but sometimes we have to make sacrifices to get at least part of what we want. I have a feeling Grandpa would be proud! I would love to tell you the name of these bushes but after all these years I forget. I know it was Van-something, a German or Scandinavian name. The roses are tiny and open very wide. The buds are very small but so adorable. I haven't seen them on sale anywhere in quite a while. Actually, I haven't looked for fear I would wind up with a backyard full of rose bushes that I couldn't possibly keep up with. Just FYI I don't think these are actually rose "bushes" but rose "shrubs".

Of course there's even a song, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden", what does that tell you? But don't let it get you down, anyone can grow roses you just have to find the right one for your area and soil. Below you'll find some photos from the red and pink rose bushes.

Copyright Tillsontitan

My original red rose bush in bloom.
My original red rose bush in bloom.
The tiny red roses up close.
The tiny red roses up close.
My pink rose bush just starting its bloom.  This bush is over six feet tall.
My pink rose bush just starting its bloom. This bush is over six feet tall.
A close up of my little pink roses blooming from the end of June till almost November here in the Northeast.
A close up of my little pink roses blooming from the end of June till almost November here in the Northeast.

If you love roses you gotta love this song!

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Comments 17 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Okay! :)

What a great story. Your rose journey is delightful--and inspiring. Looking forward to those pics!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

Thanks RTalloni. I really love my roses, whatever kind I can get. Leaves are starting on the bush as I type. I live in upstate NY and with the weather we've been having I have no idea when!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

I love your roses. I try to grow them here but don't have lots of luck with them it gets so cold here. Enjoyed your hub.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York Author

I wish I could tell you the name of the roses but the ones I'm growing now are the hardiest things I've ever seen. They actually like cooler weather and do well in our winters. Glad you enjoyed my hub.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I loved this Hub! I admire you for your determination to have roses! They really are tough plants. My soil here in S.Fl. is sandy, too, but my roses don't seem to mind. I do enjoy the containers I have with Miniature Roses.

May I link this Hub with the one I just published on the Rose?

I voted this Hub UP, and will share. Mary


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I would be honored to have you link this to your hub Mary and, as a matter of fact, would like to return the favor. Its always good for rose lovers to stick together ;) Thanks for stopping by.


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

Your Grandpa was a dedicated, patient man, Mary. And the roses are awesome, like Mary Hyatt, you have really green fingers too!! Thanks for sharing, and we can all learn from your grandad and you to be more patient! Votes up, away and shared.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Midget. Yes, he was a very patient man with a great love for his roses. He was also a happy man and always had that smile and twinkle in his eyes.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Your photos are great Mary and your grandfather would be proud of those prolific plants. You're braver than me - I just can't face growing them because of the pruning etc but your patience and dedication seems to have paid off. Well Done!


yoginijoy profile image

yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

I love your story of roses and grandpa and the love he taught you through gardening! I can hear your joy for both of them in every word. I have to agree that people are like roses, they need love! Great hub! voting up and beautiful!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Jools I'm not sure it was bravery or persistence. I was bound and determined to find a rose I could grow!

Yoginijoy thank you. There are beautiful memories for me in roses.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Thanks for adding my link... yes, we rose lovers have to stick together!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Rose lovers AND Marys!


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

That is a beautiful story! It must be eye-opening to discover a rose garden in an area you thought you knew well (your Granpa's house). A secret garden. It's sweet that he cared for roses so much. I know that it is good for those who have retired to keep busy, and that was probably a good way to use up some of his time, productively.

Your roses are so pretty! It's great that the inexpensive K-Mart ones are the ones that thrived.

Your yard looks pretty, with the benches, the fountain, the pond and the flowers. I would love to have a cozy area to sit and read, write, and enjoy nature.

This is a wonderful hub! And pretty soon it'll be Spring!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks so much for looking up this hub and reading it Kathryn! What a thoughtful thing to do. I do love my backyard. Its not huge but I have it pretty packed full ;) God bless and keep happy.


Easy Exercise profile image

Easy Exercise 24 months ago from United States

Tillsontitan,

I started with two roses given to me by my mother in law two years ago. Last summer I expanded and added five beautiful apricot roses. I am now fully addicted! It is winter now and sadly my roses are tucked beyond protective cardboard. Cannot wait for next summer! A pruning I shall go!

Delightful hub! You sucked me in completely. Beautifully written. Thank you for the garden delight in the midst of this cold Midwestern winter.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 24 months ago from New York Author

Easy Exercise I bet your roses are beautiful! I wish I had better soil and could grow the choice of roses you most likely have. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your roses.

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