June 25, 2001
Stop and smell the roses in memorial garden
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
From her second-floor apartment, a lady leaned her head out the window and called to the man working in the garden below, "Thank you for caring for the garden. I can see the roses and I love them." The man below her window was Bob Matthews, a volunteer gardener who dreamed up the idea of having a special kind of rose garden at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell.
Located next door to the lady's apartment building in the outdoor patio area, the rose garden thrives in raised planter beds, flaunting blooms in showy colors. Among the numerous varieties are Mr. Lincoln's vivid dark red, Fragrant Cloud's rosy pink and the sunny, blazing yellow of Midas Touch.
Every plant is in healthy condition, thanks to the efforts of the Rose Memorial Garden Club, a group of 10 seniors‹including Matthews‹who have volunteered to care for the plants. In between the rose beds is a rose-covered arbor. Club members designed it so that it would make the perfect setting for wedding parties and have plenty of width for a bride and groom to have pictures taken there.
Matthews explained, "Lots of young girls get married here." Public events are often held in the rose garden area at the Northshore Senior Center, including weddings.
Matthews hoped to plant a rose so that it would climb the arbor and form an archway. He envisioned a rose that would complement the bride in her wedding photos. But first, he posed a question to the women at the Senior Center.
"What color looks best with wedding gowns?" The women offered a unified response, "Apricot," they said. "It goes with just about anything." So he chose Royal Sunset, a rose with abundant apricot-colored blooms. But that's not all. The heavenly fragrance of the rose would be an added bonus. The arbor is now smothered in Royal Sunset blossoms, just as Matthews had planned.
The women at the Senior Center gather its fallen petals to make potpourri.
The notion of a special rose garden began around the time the Senior Center began to re-do the landscaping. "I thought of the idea of putting in roses, which we didn't have," said Matthews. "We decided to start a rose memorial garden. About that time I formed a club to get decisions made about what roses should go in."
Bob Matthews said that the roses in the garden represent all the people listed in a memorial book that rests on a stand in the Senior Center's coffee shop.
The book lists names of people who have passed away alongside the names of the person or family member who donated money in the loved one's memory.
The money that people donate is used for the upkeep of the rose garden. Matthews said that on occasion some people want to donate a rose, not money, in someone's memory. But, he said, there isn't enough garden space to plant a rose for every person someone would like to commemorate with a plant.
"You can't put in a thousand roses," he said motioning toward the rose garden. He added, "Those roses out there stand for all of them." He said the rose memorial garden is a restful place for anyone who visits. "You can smell the roses and think about the person," he said.
The club meets once a month, except December and January. Meetings are sometimes teaching sessions with Matthews instructing the group about roses and initiating discussions. Other times, the club meets to clean up rose beds. Club secretary Frank Weed said, "We replace roses that aren't doing well." He mentioned the Jane Pauley rose as an example. "Jane Pauley wasn't growing worth beans and so we replanted Rio Samba."
The club chooses the types of roses planted and they cut them to float in bowls for table centerpieces. "We're the only ones allowed to cut," said Weed while in the garden cutting roses for a bouquet to give to the center's director, Marianne LoGerfo.
The club holds two yearly public events. In late November, they have a winterizing roses demonstration and then in February they show how to prune, plant and transplant roses.
Said Weed, "Well I like roses, naturally, but they take a lot of care." As
for Bob Matthews, there was a time when caring for roses couldn't have been
further from his mind. But his wife liked roses and needed his assistance.
"My wife got me interested," he said, emphasizing that the interest wasn't
his idea. "She said, 'It's time to plant those roses.'" He was in the army at
the time and obliged his wife and planted the roses. Two years later, he was
transferred to another location and he planted more roses at the new
residence. Transferred again, he planted roses for his wife at that new
place. The Army sent him to India and he planted roses for his wife there,
too. Then he retired from the military and bought a house. While at a rose
show one day, he made a decision. "I said, I'm going to join a rose club and
really take care of them and that's where it started. I finally had a place
to plant them and watch them." He joined the Evergreen Rose Club and began
to show roses. He put in a rose garden at his church and at his home. Of his
garden at home, he said, "I use to have 148 roses. But they became too much
for me to handle." He's now pulling out most of his old roses and re-planting
in groups of five.
And what is the secret to growing great roses? Matthews responded by pressing
his hands together in a praying position and looking toward heaven. Then he
said, "I think the biggest secret to growing good roses is good drainage,
four hours of direct sun, preferably morning, and allowing it to develop a
good root system before you fertilize or cut." Matthews keeps the book The
Northwest Rose Expert on hand in the Club's file and said, "It's a wonderful
book." One chapter in the book describes rose diseases and how to know which
disease a rose might have by looking at its infected leaf pattern. "Our
plague of the Pacific Coast is black spotted rust," he said. Also, he said
roses that do well in California might not do well here. "You have to know
the area." He mentioned that Dainty Bess is his favorite, a rose with a
beautiful clove-like fragrance. "When you see color in the buds, cut it
before it blooms and it will open up and last for days and days."
The Rose Memorial Garden at the Senior Center has forty-seven roses in all.
Matthews said he shares the credit for their good care with his fellow club
members. Everyone, he said, who visits the garden thinks it's great. A
suggested donation-to commemorate a loved one‹is $20. "But we'll accept
anything up to a thousand dollars," said Matthews with a smile. The donations
go into the Club's treasury, a special letter is sent to the donor and an
entry is made in the Rose Memorial book.
For those who wish to make a monetary donation to the Rose Memorial Garden
Club at the Northshore Senior Center, Matthews suggests going to the
reception desk and stating the amount of the donation and the name of the
person whose memory the donation is for. And while there, stop and smell the