Rose garden is hidden gem in Summerfield
Summerfield Garden Club members sometimes take field trips to visit exotic gardens, but on Sept. 11, they only had to go to their own backyard: The end of Highland Drive where Summerfield's rose garden is lovingly maintained by neighbor Larry McCullough.
He has been tending the rose bushes for about four years but knows the whole history of the garden that is actually located in a city of Tigard street right of way. Tigard retains the right to connect Highland Drive via a sharp left turn to 100th Avenue a short distance away.
McCullough knows the rose garden might not be there forever, "but the city has said they will give me 30 days' notice to make arrangements to sell or give away the rose bushes if they are going to put the street through or take over jurisdiction."
He gets donations of cash and rose bushes for the garden, noting that "I get more donations from people outside Summerfield than from those inside Summerfield."
He added that the site, which is at the back of a huge piece of property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 98th Avenue, is classified as a city park. The garden was started when the contractor building homes in Summerfield was asked to put extra soil at the end of Highland Drive, and later McCullough, Mike Walters and Tom Fehr convinced the city to provide water to the site, with each rose bush now having its own sprinkler at the base.
Some of the original residents at the end of Highland Drive started the garden, and McCullough keeps a meticulous history of who has lived in the houses over the years since the late 1970s.
While the names have changed, the commitment to the garden has not diminished, according to McCullough.
When he took it over, he was aided by Lynette and Bob Van Vlack, but Bob Van Vlack is Summerfield's liaison to the Tigard City Council, which keeps him busy. So he has not had as much time to spend on the garden.
One improvement that McCullough pointed out to the dozen garden club members was a street light close to the garden. "It only took me 13 years to get that put in," he said.
The garden is also patriotic, with two small American flags fluttering in the breeze next to the center post. Since the ladies were visiting on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, McCullough asked for a moment of silence.
"I spent 30 years as a firefighter (with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue) and knew some of the fellows lost in New York City, although 9/11 happened after I retired," he said.
Of course, every rose has its thorns, and every rose garden has its issues.
"It's not uncommon on Saturday or Sunday mornings for golf balls to go whizzing by," said McCullough, who collects and refurbishes them. He donates 5-gallon buckets filled with 264 balls (22 dozen) to two golf courses in the Tacoma area for soldiers and their families to use.
Another bone of contention is people who pull up to the Highland dead-end and let their dogs out to run through the garden to the fields beyond, breaking off tender branches. And if dogs urinate on bushes, the ammonia can kill them.
Someone asked how often McCullough fertilizes the bushes, and he said he follows what the International Rose Test Garden does: Fertilize only once a year around May.
McCullough held up a leaf with black spots, explaining that if those leaves fall to the ground, as the plants get watered and the leaves decompose, the rot spreads to the whole plant.
"The trick is to invest in a leaf-blower," he said, explaining that he blows the spotted leaves to the edge of the church field and picks them up to put in the garbage bin, not the yard debris recycling bin where the rot might spread.
Someone else asked about pruning, and McCullough explained that since the Northwest doesn't experience extreme cold in the winter like the Midwest does, the rose bushes only need the top third pruned.
He also was asked how much time he spends in the garden and replied, "Once I got the routine down, it only takes 30 minutes every other day. You get to know each rose — each one is different. It's like raising children."
A path has been added through the middle of the rose garden, and McCullough said, "I got my biggest thrill one Sunday morning when a young couple all dressed up came over after church and walked through the garden. That is what it's for."