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A Chance Encounter

Posted by Terry Gassett on

A Chance Encounter


It began harmlessly at first, a chance encounter at a local nursery that awakened in me a desire that continues to call my name to this day. In my mind's eye I can still see its small cluster of delicate pink buds, dancing wildly as the wind and the rain pummeled the delicate stalks of the Souvenir de la  Malmaison rosebush.

I knew then I had to have it - this absolutely perfect gift of beauty - for our garden.

My husband and I were in the final stages of designing and building our dream - a lovely Bed and Breakfast Cottage carefully planned out with one purpose in mind: to provide a place of rest and refreshment for our guests. We had already decided on its name long before we broke ground on building it. We had chosen Le Jardin because it means “The Garden” in French. We wanted the garden to be an integral part of our design, to extend a natural invitation for people to slow down and rest.

We started with a mature garden: Centuries-old Magnolias greeted guests from far away, magnificently towering twenty-five feet tall over the garden. Camellias, including the famed “Pink Perfection” variety, which proudly lived up to its name, were scattered around the perimeters of the garden. And Crepe Myrtles planted in various locations put on the most amazing color show each summer. We added more Camellias, Sweet Olives, and Azaleas. But we needed something else. It wasn't until I happened upon those delicate pink buds that I realized what the garden needed! Roses, Roses and More Roses!!

I purchased two, and brought them home for my husband to plant in front of the white picket fence that surrounded our Bed and Breakfast Cottage.

Each day, I visited them in their place of prominence in the garden, eagerly awaiting the buds’ metamorphoses into full bloom. The buds opened slowly, delicately, much like a romance does. But when at last the blooms were fully opened, their fragrant, light pink, large cabbage blooms were absolutely stunning!

I began to research the rose’s history and found it was created in 1843 by Lyon rose breeder Jean Beluze, who named it after Chateau de la Malmaison where the Empress Josephine had created an impressive rose garden of over 250 varieties.

I adopted the motto, a “girl can never have enough roses” and decided that if 250 rose varieties were good enough for the Empress Josephine, they would be good enough for me!

This chance encounter with beauty soon turned into a bit of an obsession and I found myself immersed in the passionate pursuit of acquiring more and more of the beauty each rose freely offered.

I found a willing partner in my pursuit. My husband had recently discovered both his love and talent for gardening and he was only too happy to put in rose gardens for me. We worked well as a team: I choose the roses and he planted, nurtured and grew them!

We soon had a variety of types and colors: Hybrid Teas, Grandiflora, Floribundas, Climbing Roses and Shrubs, in white, yellow, pink, peach, lavender and deep red.

My husband knew them each by name. I didn't always remember their name, but oh how I enjoyed their beauty! Each day during blooming season, he would bring in one of our beautiful roses and set it in a vase for me.

Those rose gardens were such a beautiful gift to me. They were a labor of love from my husband and each rose was its own gift of beauty.

We spent many lovely hours sitting in our rose gardens, taking in their beauty and fragrance. Our guests enjoyed them immensely as well, and we often spotted them walking around the gardens, bending over to get a closer look and breathing in each one’s delicate aroma.

We were up to 29 different rose varieties when our plans for the future changed. Since those plans required relocating, we had to sell Le Jardin and leave it and its gardens behind. It turned out to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

We have a lovely new home now and we are beginning to settle in nicely.

One of the first things my husband did for me was put in a rose garden that sits right outside our bedroom window. It reminds me each day of his labor of love, and that both love and beauty are meant to be shared.

We are now culling through catalogs, flipping through page after page of beauty as we begin the process of planning and planting new rose gardens. We hope to replant many of the varieties we had at Le Jardin as well as add several antique rose varieties.

Once again, my husband's labor of love will bring forth each rose’s unique beauty. And of course, Souveneir de la Malmaison will occupy a place of prominence and honor among the others. Because, after all, it was a chance encounter with this this beauty that led to the creation of rose gardens that even the Empress Josephine would have admired!

What chance encounters have you had that inspired you?  


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