ROSES 101: Why Do I Grow Roses?
By Kim Austin, ARS Consulting Rosarian
Alfred Austin, the English poet born in 1835, once wrote, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” I thought of this quote the last time a passing neighbor told me that my roses sure were a lot of work. This got me pondering…”Why do I grow roses? Why do I garden at all when it requires blood, sweat and tears? There are a lot of other rewarding hobbies that I could have chosen to get out of cleaning the house.” So here are some things I thought of as the answer to why gardening is my favorite thing to do:
Gardeners are by nature eternal optimists. It is said that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. We can appreciate the beauty of an opening bud, the small beneficial insects, the interdependence of soil to root to foliage to bloom or fruit. We have a constant inquisitiveness and desire to learn more, whether through written knowledge or by asking questions and picking up tips from fellow gardeners. Last week, I made a trip to the local big box home improvement store to pick up some ceiling fan light bulbs and made my usual trip through the gardening section just to see what’s in stock. I spent the next hour chatting with a local tomato farmer about what is working well for him this year. I’ve found that among local rosarians there’s always a desire to help other rose growers and a willingness to share the knowledge we’ve learned. Gardeners are the most generous lot, whether sharing growing tips, an abundance of fruit from our gardens or extra plants and seeds. We love to spread the joy around. Just hang around the exhibitors’ room at the next rose show and you’ll find many top exhibitors more than willing to help a novice with many questions. Especially if said novice runs out of wedging material!
Sharing is a gardener’s second nature. We just can’t help it. For many years ur Spartanburg Master Gardeners group has participated in the “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program. We have volunteers work in a community garden to grow vegetables for the local soup kitchen and Mobile Meals. My company encouraged employees to give a day’s labor to community service projects a few years ago; there were six of us who cleaned up and planted hundreds of bulbs and plants in the gardens of the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. Several GGRS members have adopted a bed at the Shaw rose garden in Greenville and take care of the weeding and deadheading to make sure the rose garden always looks the best it can, which reflects upon our society. There are many local opportunities for a gardener to get involved in projects for beautification and service. Check with your local extension office or garden club for ideas or start a project of your own in your neighborhood.
Gardening is therapeutic. After having a particularly rough day, there’s no better feeling than to get outside and pull up weeds. I take out my frustration by yanking out morning glory vines and oxalis; I figure that it’s better to vent my negative energy into building up my compost pile or spreading mulch. It makes me feel much better to look back after I’m done and marvel at what I’ve actually accomplished. Especially looking at a bucket of soapy water with dead Japanese beetle carcasses floating around in it! What satisfaction! There are also many garden projects popular now for children, city-dwellers and the physically challenged. Many schools have teaching gardens for the students and hospitals and senior care centers have gardens for therapy. In our disposable, throw-away society, it’s such a joy to see our neighbors growing vegetable and flower gardens and taking the time to enjoy being outside instead of sitting on the couch in front of a TV set.
These are just a few reasons why I garden. I love to give my rose blooms away — there’s nothing like the surprise and happiness you see in another’s face when you hand them a cup of fragrant roses. We want to brighten up the world around us, starting with our own little corner.
Kim Austin (kimaustin[at]bellsouth[dot]net), ‘Why I Grow Roses?’, June 2013. The Greenville Rose Bud, Frank and Rita Van Lenten (fvanlenten[at]charter[dot]net and ashgram1[at]charter[dot]net), ed. Greater Greenville Rose Society.
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