I’ve made many trips in the last decade to Portland, Oregon but somehow skipped over the famous Rose Garden that is tucked into the city. Last week, while I was there for a wedding, I was determined to make my way through the rows and rows of varieties named for presidents and breeders and temperments and sunshine.
“Don’t go,” one of my friends warned. “The season is almost over! You won’t get to see the really good roses.”
And that’s the thing I recall about living in a state that barely feels the chill of winter and is doused with rain many days of the year — you get so used to the lengthy growing season, to the lushness that produces bowl-sized flowers, that the small blooms and dying flora wilt in comparison to roses at the peak of their glory.
But I didn’t listen. And I am so glad. The roses overtook me, so achingly beautiful that they made me miss my grandmother, who walked through her neighborhood pointing out the names of plants and flowers as she went. The tight buds, the prideful blossoms, and even the curled-edged and browning roses barely hanging on to their petals each wore their own kind of beauty. And the smell! Citrus, vanilla, and old-lady perfume seeped into the air.
I wanted to take a picture of every rose that struck me, and I ended up with dozens of photos. On my way home, I thought about how to capture the emotion those lovely roses held — some bright and alive, others serene and sweet. I could print and frame each photo to make a rose garden on my own wall across the country. Or better yet, I thought, I could use what I saw and smelled and felt to make changes in my own home. I could bring the roses to life, I could use them to inspire a change of linens in my bedroom or bold fabric for a new couch or intricate wallpaper for a powder room.
Here are a few of my favorite roses and the design choices that could create a garden that never fades in your favorite spaces.
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Bright pink 1 of 9Use a jolt of pink to repurpose a well-loved piece of furniture, brighten up an otherwise quiet corner or mix with softer pinks to create a sweet space for baby. [Nursery by Land of Nod, vintage-inspired glass door handle at Amazon.com, runner by CB2]
Peach 2 of 9Pale peach against richly colored walls or linens softens a space, making a perfect reading nook. [Room photo, Crate & Barrel]
White 3 of 9The delicate, simple folds of white touched in the center with bright yellow, laid against a dark background could inspire a thousand fresh, spare design ideas for your home. But what if you chose just one piece -- a modern chair with a dainty chain-link pattern, a thrifted chandelier spray-painted stark white, a pillow with a linear take on the rounded rose?
Coral 4 of 9Coral touches pop out when placed carefully in rooms filled with clean, white lines or added to muted grays. [Bedroom by Ikea, rug by CB2, kitchen and art prints by
Red and pink variegated 5 of 9Streaks of lipstick red and hot pink make a small space vibrant. [Living room by CB2, wallpaper on Etsy]
Lavender 6 of 9Forget your associations with lavender and your grandmother's house. Use the quiet color sparingly in accessories or smeared into this wallpaper or go bold with varied hues and textures. [Lamp by Pepper Kids, wallpaper and sugar bowl by Anthropologie]
Pinks and yellows 7 of 9Don't think these soft yellows and sweet pinks won't pop. Add bit of both colors to make your functional space look brighter and happier. [Paint chips by Behr, playroom at Ikea]
Red and yellow variegated 8 of 9Worried pairing yellow and red will make your living area look a little too much like a fast-food restaurant? Just adjust the dial on the colors until you have a mix that feels more like your home, less like a french-fry box. Skip maize and gold tones and instead choose chartreuse or sunnier yellows. Sparingly sprinkle in rich red accessories. [Pillow by Marimekko, upholstered chair by Crate & Barrel, kitchen at CB2]
Bright yellow 9 of 9The burst of sunshine of this rose is sure to make you want to go big in your own home. Wild wallpaper, a chandelier [KitchenInstallation.com] or a duvet made of rose scribbles [by CB2] will become the centerpiece of your formerly hush-hush space.
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[All rose photos credit: Jessica Ashley]