Why I Grow Roses

My Alabama Rose Garden

My Alabama Rose Garden

Folks ask me all the time why I grow roses. When I think about it, It was just the natural progression of things. I come from a family that finds its roots firmly planted in the deep south and all its awesome traditions. During civil war times, women gathered at cemeteries to decorate the graves of “our glorious dead” with blankets of spring roses. They wept and celebrated the lives of those who so bravely “fought the good fight”. Even today families
gather for “Decoration Day” to decorate the graves of loved ones, to share a meal and to celebrate and remember.

VanCleave Rose Garden Spring 2013

VanCleave Rose Garden Spring 2013

Enter, my first memory of a rose. Every year at Mother’s day, our family would travel to Lawrence County, Tennessee for Decoration Day at Center Point Cemetery. All the women in my family would wear a rose corsage to honor their mom’s. I seem to even remember a strict code of etiquette that was adhered to. It all had something to do with the color of the rose in relation to whether or not your mom was living or dead. These women wore these roses as a badge of honor and also to signify that they had somehow survived all that life had thrown at them. My grandmother, bent and haggard from a very difficult life, never looked prettier than on Mother’s day as she wore a beautiful rose corsage. When she died, my mother went to great pains with the florist to prepare the perfect corsage; beautiful pink roses that she insisted upon placing herself.

Blooms of Julia Child & Moondance floribundas in our garden this year

Blooms of Julia Child & Moondance floribundas in our garden this year

From that beginning, I have always held roses in high regard. When I was older and I
watched my mother hack her rose bushes to the ground, I had no idea that this annual
“pruning” was one of the keys to growing a beautiful rose. I grew up and married and all
along the way roses were integrated into my life. At our first house, at the insistence of a
neighbor, I uncovered the root ball of a rose and found it to be a Don Juan climber.

From October 2009 Flush Of Bloom - The Rose my mom helped me save....

From October 2009 Flush Of Bloom – The Rose my mom helped me save….

We moved to Alabama and purchased a home. In the back yard was one scraggly rose
bush. My mother, by this time paralyzed and in a nursing home, was quick with advice
on how to save it. “A judicious pruning, some coffee grounds and some of that “miracle
stuff” (miracle grow)”. I followed her advice and the results were phenomenal. That
Spring, my mother passed away and I was the one giving specific instruction to the
florist and had the honor of placing my mom’s final rose proudly on her chest.

My sweet Mama

My sweet Mama

So, I dig in the dirt and tend my roses. I exhibit them in shows, and share them with friends, family and strangers. I even began a podcast dedicated to roses. I do it to honor those who have gone before me, and to help promote the care and keeping of our “national floral emblem”. I do it because the rose matters. Roses are a part of so many facets of our lives, I mean look around. If you really check things out, you are surrounded by the rose. They appear on dishes, photographs, upholstery, clothes, shoes, wallpaper, paintings, they are in our gardens and literally surround the landscape of our lives. If every rose has a  story, every rose grower has one too! What’s yours?

This is my story

This is my story

Some of you may recognize this story. I wrote it a few years ago and it was posted on another persons blog by me as a guest post. They have opted to remove it, so I am reposting it here for posterity.

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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 About.com and on his popular website; RedneckRosarian.com, 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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28 Responses to Why I Grow Roses

  1. Pingback: Why I Grow Roses | All Things Rose | Scoop.it

  2. Mark Shipp says:

    What a beautiful story, Chris. So much of it reminds me of the Mother’s Day traditions in my family when I was a child. My mother always told me the same “etiquette” regarding what color rose you were supposed to pin to your lapel that day. I don’t remember the details, but I need to ask her to remind me! I’m glad you re-posted the story. Something this touching never need be lost.

    Like

    • Mark, Thanks for your comment. Our parents, grandparents and all those who have come before us have left us such a rich legacy. These traditions often fall by the wayside… We must keep them alive….

      Like

  3. Donna Citro says:

    I love your site and patiently wait for your posts!!

    Like

  4. roberta4949 says:

    nice, I love roses too how do you keep the black spot off your roses do you use any antifungal sprays or anything? the black spot just devesated by poor davies, new dawn and my red climber. my rugosa did fine, and so did my semi wild rose, .by the way who couldn’t love roses considering how there are a zillion of types and they smell so wonderful and some bloom all summer long when other flowers have faded.

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    • Thanks for your comment. I try to buy varieties that are very disease resistant. We do have some blackspot problems, but not enough usually to make a big difference. There are so many great roses… I would have one of each if space permitted.

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  5. Chris, a truly heartfelt post.Thank you! Stunning images and words. You are blessed and are a blessing to us all. xo

    Like

  6. Silvana says:

    Thank you Chris, for sharing your wonderful heartfelt story! I find your love of roses truly inspiring!
    I too grow roses because they remind me of my mother and her story….

    Like

  7. Keri says:

    This is a beautiful, touching story. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Like

  8. This is a great story, Chris!

    Like

  9. cookiescate says:

    Lovely story, beautiful memories. Thanks for sharing. Here in Ireland, I’ve a constant battle with black spot because of the damp climate. And any sign of warm, dry weather brings on green fly en masse. I’ve all but given up on them. The only rose that seems to survive it all is one I started from a slip smuggled in a few years ago – taken from my Mom’s backyard in Massachusetts. She planted it when we bought the house some 40+ years ago. And like you, I have memories of her hacking it down every year. And of walking to school with bouquets for the teacher. The scent alone brings me back to childhood. Moms and roses seem to be intertwined in a lot of our memories.

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  10. What a great share, Chris. “Thanks for the memories.”

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  11. I love your blog. Thank you for sharing these memories. I love roses, and since reading this, I am trying to remember when it started. My mother died when I was young, and for the longest time, I called roses “funeral flowers.” Her casket was covered with glorious red roses, and so I associated roses and death. I rented a house when I got divorced in my early 40s. There was a beautiful climbing rose bush in the garden. Each Sunday afternoon, I would go cut roses and bring them into the house as a centerpiece for our Sunday dinner. That must be when I started to love them. I was afraid I didn’t have the skills/soil/water, etc. to grow them when I bought my house, but each year, I add one more rose bush, and I love each and every one of them.

    Can you tell me what you do with the coffee grounds? I remember my mom saving them for something in the garden….

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  12. Oh, what a sweet story Chris. After a hectic gardenchat on twitter, this post sooths my soul and it is sad as well. I wish your mom could have seen your amazing rose garden, she would have been so proud of you! I am sure she was proud already, you are such a wonderful person.

    Like

  13. debsgarden says:

    Hi Chris, I really enjoyed reading this touching post! The photos are great, too; I especially like the one of your spring garden! My best wishes to you and Tina as we go into the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. Stay warm! Deb

    Like

  14. pdlyons says:

    thank you for posting this. beautiful to read. my mother was roses too.

    Like

  15. John F. Ward says:

    A lovely tale, and an inspiration. Is the podcast still active?

    Liked by 1 person

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