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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[All rose photos credit: Jessica Ashley]