Harvesting Roses in Miriam Wilkins' Garden



For five years after Miriam Wilkins' passing, we have had the privilege of harvesting roses in what remains of her garden. The property is a wild thing now with no care taken and the few roses that remain are the hardy species types that Miriam loved best in her later years. These pictures were taken last year, once again, on the Friday before the Celebration of Old Roses. You will see that amongst the ruin we still managed to gather spectacular things. This rose is Dorothy Perkins.





First a nod to the species roses Miriam loved. 



This is a hardy European rose- if you think you know the name, let me know.



Year after year, this rose thrills me. It is a monster though, huge, extremely thorny, but with the most compelling and photogenic blooms. I've taken many pictures of it and you will see it in the bouquet below. I've never seen a rose to compare with this one, and who knows, this may be the only one in existence.


To me, a garden of the heart would be a modest affair, whatever the true gardener who loves to work in the soil comes up with, not lavish estates. We are all limited in one way or another. Visitors to gardens must take this into account. That is why I never hesitate to let anyone see our rose collection. There must be something here to teach or please.

~Miriam Wilkins








The harvestees are now ready to wow people at the Celebration.







As we were harvesting, I noticed the steps and pots below Dorothy Perkins, and then realized Dorothy had demolished a pergola.


We bought our dream lot in 1944 when Dick returned from the South Pacific. It looked out at the Golden Gate, a mysterious sight when wreathed in fog. Five years later the house was built and we moved in with three children under five years. Soon we had a lawn with play equipment, and a badminton court. I was buying old roses from Roses of Yesterday and Today. They were planted in neat rows with paths between the plots. The lawn and everything went in 1952. Roses grew as roses will. I began to garden on my neighbors back forty. That was soon filled. Five years ago (2002), the two yards were well worth a visit, but it's been downhill every since. I do not encourage visitors but they may come if they care to.

~Miriam  Wilkins


The wonderful thing is that she always welcomed us and in that overgrown state there was wonderment! Miriam's garden has given its all again and again and here it's 2016. I hope to see you at the Celebration–there will be many wonderful roses for sale propagated especially for you!



Rose Bouquet Gathering of Royalty


It's a special privilege to harvest roses from one's own garden any day of the year. On May 16, for the Celebration of Old Roses, I knew it was going to be slim pickings though, since my roses were almost spent. Several shrubs only had one rose to offer, but in the end, the bouquet I made for display managed to include seventeen exquisite members of genus rosa.





I'm kind of sentimental about these bouquets, because the offering always has so much history whether it's from a gardener's point of view or from rose history itself.



I fell in love with Madame Hardy in an ancient church yard, on an overcast day in England.



I first saw The Swamp Rose, R. Palustris in Marilyn Wellan's Louisiana garden. I thought it was a spirea with thin elegant leaves, as it hadn't bloomed yet. This sweet thing is my latest favorite– just look at those elegant buds.



The wonderful Perle d'Or, a must for every rose garden, in my humble opinion. It took me a long time to figure out how to get this to grow. I found it's best not to deadhead it, since it gets fresh growth along the panicles.



This little honey is a seedling that appeared at the foot of Kathleen in my garden. I think it would be fun to call her Carolyn Parker! 


I'll tell you the names of the ten other roses in the bouquet, because they are all fabulous, and you might want to look them up on Help Me Find and even purchase them for your garden. Albertine, Shoener's Nutkana, Jeanne La Joie, Kathleen, Escapade, R. roxbrughii, Pink Gruss an Achen, Shailer's Provence, Common Moss and I'm sorry to say, there are three I don't have names for.



As you can see, I never tire of taking pictures of such bouquets.



And here is one last shot, after I finished putting it together in the cold windy morning–always a solitary and happy time.



Celebration Rose Bouquet- details (story board)



With the Celebration of Old Roses coming up, I wondered what state Miriam Wilkins' garden was in. Even after sharing itself with rose seekers following Miriam's death in 2009, and a recent severe pruning, I thought there might be the chance of a magical come-back. After all, roses in 4 digits had passed through Miriam's hands into her garden.


M wilkinson garden

In recent years Miriam's garden had become an almost impenetrable jungle of rampant growth. Miriam enjoyed the blooming rooftops of her garden from her second story dining room window. From the ground, blooms were a challenge to even find. Kristina Osborne and I decided to go over and have a look.



What a revelation we found! Until recently, the foreground in this shot was buried by the growth shown in the previous picture (taken several years ago).



This and many other lovely roses now had plenty of sun and space.



The neighboring property that Miriam planted had a number of changes, but roses were thriving.



The first close-up is The Musk Rose and the last is Quatre Saisons. In between, sorry I don't know their names.



This is Red Grootendorst with Geranium Maderense. Yes, Miriam's incredible collection of companion plants were also unveiled by the pruning. (I have another post planned for them.)

Needless to say Kristina and I were thrilled and we planned to come back the next week with Joanie Helgeson to harvest for the Celebration. And I made plans to gather blooms for a large bouquet to display in Miriam's rose patterned tureen. Miriam's daughter Lynn gave it for use at the Celebration, if we "filled it with roses." I was especially excited that this year all the roses would come from Miriam's garden.


A Week Later


This (and more) is the harvest Kristina, Joanie and I managed to cut on Friday, before the Sunday Celebration day. Believe it or not, all of this was needed for the bouquet.

I usually like to make bouquets the morning of the event, so I was nervous about how fresh the bouquet would be almost 3 days later. Many of the roses were rambling or climbing singles picked in bud, in hopes that they'd open by the Celebration.

To clear the living room, I thought I'd better get busy.


The Bouquet


In this close-up, you can see the just-opened singles.



Miriam's tureen detail.



At the Celebration. 


The Day After


The heavy weight and broad width of the tureen required a liner. It's much easier to arrange these hefty stems in a container with a smaller neck. A day later, everything still looks o.k.- I was surprized and grabbed my camera. I only wish I had had more time before the Celebration to capture the many wonders that made it through the door.




Thank you sweet roses,



and thank you Miriam!