Roses have stories, sweet fragrance to share
"Traveling through the dark I found a deer dead on the edge of the Wilson River road."
William Stafford wrote more than 2,000 poems during his lifetime. This is the first line of one of his most well-known poems and is also the title of his first major collection of poetry that won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry. Stafford served as Oregon's Poet Laureate for several years. He was loved by many Oregonians and Lake Oswegans, as was his wife Dorothy.
How fondly I remember Dorothy Stafford. She was my fourth-grade teacher at Forest Hills Elementary. She always wore a smile and never uttered a harsh word to any student. Dorothy and William have departed, but their legacy lives on.
The Oswego Heritage Council (OHC) was lucky enough to procure two rose bushes from the Stafford family home on Sunningdale Drive near Forest Hills School. The offer for the rose bushes came via an OHC board member whose daughter and her husband were renting the Stafford house after Dorothy passed away. I immediately said "yes"; I wanted the roses for OHC's historic rose garden, even though I didn't know the exact names of the specific roses. Just knowing the Stafford story and being able to share it with garden visitors was enough to warrant having it planted in the garden. One of the rose bushes is coral in color; the other is yellow. The story goes that Dorothy, an avid gardener, planted the yellow rose bush outside the big picture window of her husband's office where he did his writing so he could be inspired by its beauty. The coral rose bush was planted near the deck.
The historic rose garden project started germinating in 2010, after I had written an article about William Cane, who occupied the house prior to it becoming OHC's home, and after I had written about JB Pilkington and Son Nursery, which extended from Boones Ferry south, along what is now Pilkington Road, to Childs Road and all the way over to Bridgeport Village. When Cane (a physician who was granted fellowship in the American College of Surgeons in the 1940s) lived in the house, there was a circular driveway that was planted on both sides with roses. In looking at one of Pilkington's catalogues, I noticed that in the early years of the nursery he offered mostly fruit trees and roses. I couldn't help wondering if Cane might have purchased his roses from JB Pilkington and Son Nursery. Although I can't confirm this, it is very likely because Pilkington was one of the largest nurseries in the state.
My mother loved roses and had a rose garden. I wonder if she bought any roses from Pilkington?
For lack of not knowing their true names, I am going to call the coral rose Dorothy S., and the yellow rose William S.
Many of the other roses in the historic rose garden have equally interesting stories. The General Pershing, Thelma, Madame Caroline Testout, and Thomas Hardy are some of my favorites.
General Pershing was one of America's most accomplished generals. His nickname was Black Jack Pershing because he was the only white man to lead the all-African-American 10th Cavalry known as the Buffalo Riders. I selected this rose because I love the color and the story.
The Thelma rose was selected in honor of OHC board president 2016 and 2017 Candee Clark Jones whom I have known since third grade and who played the part of the first Queen of Rosaria, Thelma Hollingsworth, for the Portland Rose Festival Association.
Madame Caroline Testout was a French dressmaker who happened to come upon a start of the rose at the time un-named. She decided to name it after herself; took cuttings of it and sold them out of her showroom.
The plant made its way to the United States and eventually to Portland where 10,000 rose bushes were planted. This is how Portland came to be known as The City of Roses.
The Thomas Hardy rose was named after the English novelist and poet. Hardy wrote "Jude the Obscure" for which there is a rose named. Unfortunately, that one is not planted in the garden.
I hope you will visit the garden. It is open daily dawn until dusk. You will find walking tour pamphlets in the small kiosk next to the display case on the wall in the courtyard. All of the plants are identified and numbered with yellow markers and correspond with the numbers in the pamphlet.
Nancy Dunis is a member of the Jottings group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, and a member of Oswego Heritage Council.