Saying Goodbye to My Rose Garden


I'd been saying goodbye to my rose garden for four years, and finally this past September, I dug up seventeen roses, a few perennials, a couple of shrubs and moved. Now in my new home, it seems I owe my well-loved garden a proper goodbye here on the blog. 


Carolyn Parker Under Rose Arch in Her Garden

I've gone through every emotion leaving a garden of so many roses, but I'm also excited to show you how the roses became a signature and main focus for thirty-six years.



The garden is in Lafayette, CA, in the San Francisco Bay Area, on a flat, one-third acre with pretty good soil and lots of sun. Here it is on May 5, 2020 just past peak rose bloom. Eight-foot wide beds are bordered by a lattice deer fence of climbing roses. In front of the fence, roses are grouped by color and underplanted with matching perennials. The house is surrounded by an equally wide bed of pink roses. Originally a giant Cedar, which eventually had to be removed, grew where the white roses are now, and along the perimeter of the property tired junipers overwhelmed a two-foot split rail fence.


Front garden 2013

A similar angle taken in 2013 before the fencing filled in with roses.


Front garden facing peach roses

Another front garden view, this time facing the peach and yellow roses–that's Crepuscule in bloom, climbing the fence. Pink Gruss an Aachen, one of my favorites, is in the lower right corner. Love it when the grass is a little too long!


Just Joey Roses

Color grouping roses with matching underplantings, has been a thrill for this plant addict, because there are so many possibilities. Geum planted near Just Joey roses is a prolific bloomer and a great cut flower.


Carolyn Parker holding yellow roses

I took the pictures of me in this post with a remote clicker during the pandemic shut-down, and this shot reminds me of how crystal clear the skies were then.


Lamarque in Carolyn Parker garden

I'm including this shot because I love the memories and details. We are still in the front garden and I'm not even embarrassed to show the weeds (the pandemic's fault), and that all too frequent rootstock intruder–the red rose, Dr. Huey (it looks so pretty). I'm sitting on damp grass shooting with my iPhone. I'm nostalgic for three of the heritage roses here: Lamarque in the background on the fence; Madame Hardy budded to Dr. Huey, and Paquerette, the first polyantha in the lower right corner. 


Lamarque rose on lattice fence

Here is Lamarque from the other side of the fence, with Iceberg on the arbor, both are showstoppers four times a year. Along the entrance path, bordered by erigeron, is white bearded iris and California native iris. Abutilon, watsonia, phlox, dinner plate hibiscus, calamintha, molinia cerulea, guara, geranium biokovo, are some of the many white underplantings in and around this area. Now let's go see what's on the fence, along the sidewalk.


Rose border outside fencing

For years, I battled deer with one thing after another. When home remedies no longer worked, a lattice fence finally did the job better than I ever imagined. Yes, no more deer munched the Hybrid Teas, but a wonderful sense of privacy and fantastic opportunities opened up for climbing roses, and many new companion plantings. I especially love the boldness and textural contrast of New Zealand flax, and the African native melianthus major. Mexican feather grass pops over from the school across the street, and sews itself liberally all along this border.


Perle d'Or in Carolyn Parker's garden

Here are two shrubs of Perle d'Or, another favorite rose, with a guava and a persimmon tree in the background. Of course, I couldn't resist planting more roses outside the fence, and I do sometimes cover these with deer netting, but for the most part the roses up against the fence are not munched, and small flowered roses are often just left alone.


Shrub roses in Carolyn Parker's GardenUntitled-1

I must say, it's a proud moment when the bloom looks like this. I love it when large shrub roses and climbers come into their own. From the left, Albertine, Jeanne Lajoie, Peggy Martin, Kathleen and her-yet-to-be-named sport. 


Phyllis Bide Rose

I've shown you most everything but the back garden. A gigantic silver maple spreads its shady canopy over most of this area, and it's hard to believe how much bigger it is now than when I first gardened here. There are almost no roses in the back, but I'm fond of this shot of Phyllis Bide sheltering a bench taken many years ago. I'm hoping to use more blue flowered plants in my new garden.

Climbing rose arch

For all the years that I have lived here, I gardened for myself in honor of creation, and in the mix, neighbors just loved it, and children, from preschool to the fifth grade, at the school across the street, have had what I hope are unforgettable childhood memories of beauty. I documented much of the garden's progress here on the blog, which I hope you enjoy exploring.

In retrospect, I always felt like I had unlimited space for roses; so I fearlessly grew the largest shrubs and climbers, never thinking one more rose was too many. However, my attitude resulted in very high maintenance, which is indeed a luxury in today's world. On the other hand, I learned how rewarding large scale, mostly Heritage roses are to even the smallest garden, and when planted with intention, they are valuable garden shrubs that for the most part bloom much more extensively than the most popular spring-blooming shrubs. 

So now in my new garden space, which is probably one-fifth the size of my old garden, I have to forgo roses like Lamarque, Albertine, and Cecile Brunner, but I do have plans for a long arbor lavished with seven climbers! I am making room for Kathleen and a few other large shrubs, and sure, there will be some Hybrid Teas and the honored David Austins. I can't wait to get started and look forward to showing you the steps along the way.


Please leave a comment–I'd love to hear from you! 


Fall in Our Garden

I took these pictures two weeks ago, and got this post ready that day. However I didn't think I had processed the images well enough, so I decided not to share it. Today they look pretty good though. I'd rather be posting a Christmas blog, but will do that tomorrow-- enjoy!


People talk about planning gardens for fall color. I can't say I do that, but wait a minute . . .



Sunday morning I walked home to our happy corner of the world- took note and grabbed my camera. 



Here's one of our new gates. The arch has a coat of primer- I'm not sure what color it will be. My dad built both arches some years ago, and they now enclose more area from deer. We call this Bob's Garden as a memorial for my dad who died last November.



Would you know there's more than 300 roses in the surroundings? I think the companion plantings do a pretty good job as the roses begin their slumber.



This vew is from the behind the scenes catch-all area. 



Inside the front fenced area here's the table I often prep roses on. Leaves and thorns litter the grass from harvesting the season's last roses for pictures.



This is the back garden- you may have noticed there are maple leaves in all these pictures- below is the culprit- a giant weed (silver maple).



Another new gate appears in the background.



Still blooming. 


Carolyn Parker Bio Part 3


"Before / After and Everchanging" seems a fitting phrase to describe a garden. What has come before always influences the now, and the future. Here's a timeline of my garden, so far.



When describing my garden plot I always start out by saying, "We live on a flat, sunny corner." Here it is on an early fall morning, before the sun has hit the front of the property. That sidewalk is 8-ft wide and surrounds a 1000-sq-ft strip of land that was actually roadway when we first moved here. Nothing like city improvements in our favor!



In 2008 our little house received a roof-lift and a new addition. 




It's 1986, and this is my first attempt at gardening- that Queen Elizabeth climber wouldn't quit.



The shuttered window (same one in the shot above) has witnessed many changes- this was taken probably 10 years ago- those pittosporums are long gone, but the pink roses are still there. The bed is 8-ft deep and surrounds the house.



This is our newly planted garden in winter (so naked). That deodora cedar eventually succumbed to old age, opening the space up to even more sun. The split rail fence inspired the rose plantings, however deer soon discovered the roses and after much angst, and too many do-it-myself repellants, the split rails were replaced with a 6-ft high lattice fence.



Here's a considerable transformation. To the left is the corner of the pink rose bed. The other beds are grouped by color- white to red to peach. The deer fence is a year old here.



This shot, taken this past spring, shows the pink bed in the foreground with the peach section behind. The roses really love that fence, and deer never eat (off the fence) from the other side- why I don't know. 




Here's the other side of the deer fence. In the mid-upper left, you can see the lattice. Yes there are roses on the outside as well, some they eat some they don't. This picture is not as tightly planted as it looks- you can walk around in there, and there is a pathway.



This fence extends beyond the area shown in the photo above this one. I love this shot- it brings back memories of a rose order I placed for climbers to cover that fence, sight unseen. With only one year's growth they made lots of progress! The foreground shows an old asphalt sidewalk and dirt wayside that edged the roadway.



This shot was taken a few months later. That's lovely Renae on the arch (which doesn't show in the image above). In the early days I edged the beds with catmint. It did very well, but I got tired of it and added a more varied plant palette. Good view here of that long gone asphalt. The weedy area is now like a little forest with a big persimmon tree and huge roses.




The silver maple canopy keeps the back garden shady. A lovely filtered sun pattern moves through the days of spring and summer. The little arch grew into the image below.



Climbing Cecile Brunner has been an endless source of delight. I love it when large roses are allowed to make a statement.



The blue garden is behind the Cecile Brunner, caught here in the early morning.



The Renae rose gateway looks in on the blue garden and a blooming Cecile Brunner.

Phew! That's the garden for the moment- always more changes to come . . .