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Mr. Johan's rose garden

Mr. Johan’s rose garden thrived in the Garfield Park community of Chicago, where he lived. He owned a small, Chicago-style bungalow, built from a Sears Catalog home kit. His roses grew in the backyard, taking the place of a garage.

Grant Park Rose Garden
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Nearly 100 hybrid tea, grandiflora and heirloom rosebushes filled his yard. Every bush had a plant marker listing its name, color and group. Magnificent, award-winning hybrid tea roses of every color—deep crimson, pale apricot, soft yellow, delicate pink and pure white—bloomed in late spring to early autumn. The scent of his roses filled the air.

Mr. Johan worked as a tradesman, not a horticulturist. He was also a sportsman who hunted and fished with his friends in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada. But, roses were his special joy.

In early spring, Mr. Johan removed the cones covering his rosebushes. He cleared away the protective soil and leaves sheltering the stock and pruned away dead branches. He made a circle of rose food around the bush about five inches from the stock. With a hand rake, he blended the food into the soil.

During the summer, he removed spent blossoms and trimmed the stem to a leaflet of six leaves. He didn’t sprinkle his roses, but he used a drip hose to make sure they received the right amount of moisture. Monthly, he gave them rose food and vigilantly examined his roses for insect pests. He sprayed the bushes if they were infected.

In November, he pruned his rosebushes to half their size and covered them with soil and leaves. After the first hard freeze, he covered them with cones, which had holes drilled into them so air could circulate and prevent mold.

Sadly, Mr. Johan sold his home to uncommitted gardeners, and the roses slowly died.

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