I only have a few memories of my grandparents’ house in Victoria but one of them was their rose garden. I hadn’t thought about it much until three summers ago when I spent the month of July undergoing radiation treatments for colorectal cancer at the BC Cancer Clinic in Victoria. To keep my spirits up, I would visit the various gardens around the city and it was always in the rose gardens where I found the deepest sense of peace.
The surgeon told me I would be off work for a year and I knew I would need something to look forward to, so I decided to start planning a rose garden in our yard that would be built as my celebration garden when I recovered from cancer.
There’s a lot of down time when you’re going through cancer treatments, so I filled our couch with rose gardening books I had ordered online, combed the Internet researching rose varieties and poured through the rose ordering pages of nursery websites. I learned a lot about growing healthy roses on the west coast. With the help of my son, who is a landscaper, we designed the garden layout and I carefully selected each rose for its size, colour and hardiness (and let’s be honest, a little bit for the names!) By October 2019 I was healthy again and I placed my order for 24 bare root roses from Russell Nursery in Victoria that were due to arrive the following February.
We had a lot of snow in January 2020 so we couldn’t start building the rose beds until February 1st. God bless my son and husband who worked in the cold and the mud to help excavate and build the garden beds with good soil and compost. Next came adding the borders and starting the pergola.
On the last weekend of February 2020 we drove to Victoria to pick up my order and we got them all planted the next day. On March 11th, the World Health Organization declared a world-wide pandemic for Covid-19 and we were ordered to stay at home! The bad news was our son was no longer able to come and help us finish the pergola, the irrigation, and the gravel. The good news was, we had nothing but time to stay at home and work in the garden! My husband truly deserves a medal for helping me carry out this vision and with some over-the-phone consulting with our knowledgeable son, we worked together to finish the project. The structure was beautiful and all we needed was a good dose of patience and hope (something I learned a lot about on my cancer journey) as we waited for spring to awaken the roses from their bare root slumber and for summer as I anticipated the glorious blooms!
And bloom they did! I can not adequately describe the joy in my heart last summer as each cane grew a stem, each leaf unfurled, and by July, flower buds emerged opening gracefully into a kaleidoscope of colourful blooms. In this ever-changing garden, each morning brought a new gift to share with the world and the garden provided a perfect place to share picnics with my grandchildren and a place where together we could explore and play and host some special visitors from nature.
A full year has passed since the garden first bloomed and I have learned about pruning and mulching and as winter’s bare canes seemed lifeless to the eye, below the ground the roots lay firm, resting for the arrival of spring once again. Almost every rose has grown larger and stronger than the year before. A couple may need replacing so as not to harm the others. So it goes with life as well – sometimes the bad parts need to be removed to keep the rest of the body healthy.
You will hear warnings that roses are a lot of work. And while I agree that they do take a good amount of time, caring for them and watching them grow provides me with an enormous sense of joy and gratitude that the dream that was planted in my heart during a time of trial, was used to help me grow and share the wonder of creation.
There’s a sign in my garden with a quote by Dorothy Frances Gurney that sums it up perfectly: