Within the last fifteen to twenty years it has been my privilege and blessing to help with the rose beds at William Street UMC.
Roses had been a fixture in the east beds for many years but by the time my daughter Jessica and I began attending, had been long neglected. The garden consists of four concrete-lined beds beginning at the street and extending between the entrance ramp and the alley along the east side of the church.
I began by digging up the over grown roses in the rectangular bed furthest from William Street. The soil proved to be very workable and with a few added soil amendments I planted the bed with roses I knew to be good bloomers and easy care. The roses included two Showbiz, one Elina and two Sexy Rexys (not a very churchy name but a good rose). As one member said “It goes to show you that even roses need redemption”. Soon I added a Sheila’s Perfume and the mini Applause and Chasin’ Rainbows. A Mr. Lincoln was donated by a member of the congregation and with the HT Habitat for Humanity 2003, that completed the first bed. The only original rose that was worth keeping was an old Mr. Lincoln which stood in the middle bed. The next year I added a very sickly but cheap end of the season boxed Veterans Honor. It now rivals all the other plants in size and vigor.
I heard that the church was planning to remove a very old crab apple tree which stood in the bed next to the street. I suggested that they allow me to extend the rose garden to the other two beds and create a Remembrance Garden with donations from the congregation in honor of loved ones living and passed. Chuck Shipman, a wonderful rose grower agreed to help me and soon we had $80 start up money with more coming in every Sunday. One weekend when I couldn’t be there, Chuck worked for about 4 hrs or more and removed two tree stumps that had been left behind after the crab was removed (I owe you a bunch Chuck). Chuck designed a plan to add 17 roses in a cross formation in the 9×9 bed. It might look a little crowded but we were going for maximum color.
We included two Veteran’s Honor and one each of Pope John Paul II, Touch of Class, Let Freedom Ring, Welcome Home, Melody Perfume, Crystalline, Oklahoma, Love, Peace, Double Delight, Remember Me, Memorial Day, Radiant Perfume, Gemini and in the center a Double Red Knockout. Round stepping stones completed the cross formation.
To the other beds we added some free roses I received from Jackson and Perkins at a Delaware Area Rose Society meeting: Tuscan Sun, Ruffled Cloud, Petal Pushers and Good ‘n’ Plenty. Sheila’s Perfume didn’t make it through last years winter so I purchased Heaven on Earth as a replacement (and put it next to Sexy Rexy).
We next removed some of the perennials and bulbs which had been planted on either side of the dogwood tree and filled the space with seven more roses to go with the two from the previous year. In 2011 we added another bed of seven roses to the upper bed next to the top of the ramp. 2013 will see roses added to the bed at the base of the alley stairs and the bed next to the bell tower.
This has been a wonderful project and the comments from the church members have been incredible. Many times when Chuck and I arrive to work there are people enjoying the garden during lunch and stopping by on their way through the alley and on the sidewalk to smell and admire the blooms. As we work, we are constantly answering questions about the roses and listening to compliments from the public. The roses grace our alter on Sunday mornings, are taken to people by pastor Julie when she visits and are given out to the public when they pass by. As Pastor Julie says when she is trying to explain which church is William St, “We are the church with the roses”. I’ll admit that there is a lot of work involved but the rewards greatly out weigh the work.