Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, RI invited Angie and me to present an evening program on roses a few weeks ago. Julie Murphy, the program coordinator, met us at the gate leading into the rose garden where our Roses for New England program began with a walk through the garden.
We found the Blithewold Rose Garden in tiptop shape with the June bloom well underway. The roses were lush due to boat-loads of rain and the recently installed irrigation system. The foliage was immaculate, not a speck of disease, and that’s always a sign of good rose garden management. The choice of companion plants made sense, too, with tall spikes of blooming delphiniums and lavender dramatically bringing the color blue into the garden (The genus rosa has just about every color except blue.)
However, we missed the Chestnut Rose in bloom as it had already gone by and won’t bloom again until next year. This enormous rosa roxburghii, dating back to the early 1900s, dominates an entire corner of this intimate and elegant garden room.
The stroll through the garden led to an impromptu discussion and demonstration on pruning next to the beautiful and stylish moon gate built into the ancient stone wall. The entire group was curious about pruning and most felt it was a puzzling ritual until I explained how simple it could be. It was the “Eureka” moment of the evening, setting the tone for the rest of the program which had moved to a parlour room inside the mansion.
My programs are generally Power Point, but during the summer months when our gardens are in bloom, I prefer to use fresh cut roses to support my lectures instead of slides. I pass them around during the program so everyone can see, feel and smell each flower. The audience really enjoys this, especially at the end of the program when each rose goes home with someone.
The event ended with a book signing and additional questions. Since our primary goal with each program is to convince home gardeners that growing roses is easy and fun once they learn a few basic steps, we had a good night.