Mrs. Dodd & Our Leatherwood Rose


Christina & Tyler in front of our 'Leatherwood Rose'

In the Autumn of 1993, we moved to a small house on Leatherwood Drive in Nashville Tennessee. Christina, our daughter was 2 1/2, Tyler, our son, was only 8 months old. The house had a nice approach from the road and had some plantings in the landscaped beds that bordered the house. After a while we met some of the neighbors. One in particular was Lucille Dodd. She was a mess. In her eighties, she only left her house on Friday’s to go to the beauty shop to have her hair fixed and then to the grocery store. She often enlisted me to drive her and we became fast friends. She had the most beautiful forsythia and peonies on the block. We had a large hydrangea and she would threaten to come over in the night and pinch off our blooms for fear they would outshine hers.

One afternoon we were sitting on the covered porch of her home and we were discussing flowers. Hedge roses were making their debut in our area and I mentioned to her that I wanted to try them. She asked why I didn’t take care of the rose I already had. I was confused. We did not have a rose in our yard. When I gently corrected her, “she said you have been mowing over it every week since you bought the place.” I was dumbfounded. We got up and moved to the fence, she pointed across the street to our house and told me where to look in the grass for the root ball. She was certain I would find it. I went over immediately and looked in the spot she had pointed out, and much to my surprise, found the stump.

I grabbed my garden tools and began to dig around it and work up the soil. I mixed up some Miracle Grow and watered liberally. Then we waited. And Watered. And Fed. Did I mention we waited? Then, there it was, a shoot, then a cane. It was a climber! And climb it did! And Bloom! Wow! It wasn’t long before Ms. Dodd was threatening to come and chop it down for fear of upstaging her flowers. We believed the rose to be a Don Juan.

Circumstances took us from Tennessee in the Spring of 2000. I have never forgotten Mrs. Dodd, (who went to be with the Lord shortly after we moved), nor have I forgotten our Leatherwood rose.


About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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3 Responses to Mrs. Dodd & Our Leatherwood Rose

  1. Cherie says:

    Heartwarming story! So funny she didn’t want your flowers to outshine hers!


  2. Pingback: The Redneck Rosarian

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