Among the multitude of floral offerings for Valentine’s Day, roses always stand out. It’s hard to resist the beauty and softness of their petals, their intoxicating perfume and outstanding depth of color. A bouquet of long-stemmed roses may go for anywhere from $20 to more than $200 depending on the number, type of arrangement, specialty touches or floral shop. What’s an admirer, especially one on a budget, to do?

Basket of pink roses at the CT Flower Show. Photo by dmp2010.

A single rose with a bit of baby’s breath and some greenery in a bud vase is one option. Even a simple bouquet of 3 or 6 roses with some other floral accompaniments would surely be appreciated by the receiver, whether given as a token of romantic love or terms of endearment. When selecting roses, freshness counts. Stems should be strong, flowers partially opened and erect on the stems and leaves should be firm. Avoid any that feel flimsy or look like they are beginning to wilt. Do keep in mind that some are more heavily scented than others.

While red roses, of course, symbolize love and admiration, blossoms of other colors also are associated with meanings or emotions. What they stand for, might help you decide which ones to choose for that special person in your life. Deep and medium pinks express gratitude while light pinks symbolize innocence and appreciation. Looking to stir up some romantic feelings, try salmon roses that represent desire and excitement. Orange colored blooms indicate fascination, cream, charm and thoughtfulness, yellow signify friendship and white, innocence or new love. The dyed rainbow ones are though to express hope and pride.

Roses come in many beautiful colors, each with its own meaning. Photo by dmp2022.

Although it is not clear why of all flowers, the rose is emblematic with Valentine’s Day, one legend has it that the first red rose appeared on the spot where the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite’s, lover Adonis was felled by a wild boar. From the mixture of his blood and her tears, a lovely red rose sprang forth from the ground. Regardless of how this association began, over 250 million roses worth about $2 billion dollars were sold for Valentine’s Day last year according to the National Retail Federation.

Even cards are adorned with roses. Photo by dmp2022.

When properly cared for, cut roses can be enjoyed for at least a week and maybe two. If not already in a container, prepare a clean vase for them. Always give your vases a good scrubbing with soap and water before storing to reduce chances of bacterial growth that is harmful to cut flowers.

Mix up the packet of floral preservative that typically comes with cut flowers or arrangements as directed on the package. Use lukewarm tap water. While there are suggestions for use of common household items to make a homemade floral preservative solution, some do not work at all while others may not extend vase life to the same extent that these commercially prepared mixes do. All contain some form of carbohydrates, generally sucrose, to serve as a source of energy for the flowers, some type of acidifier as flowers last longer when not in alkaline water, and an anti-bacterial agent to inhibit the growth of damaging microbes. Store any extra floral preservative mix so it can be used when the water needs to be replaced.

Recut the stems of roses at an angle before placing in the vase filled with floral preservative. Use sharp pruners or scissors to avoid crushing the stem. If at all possible, do this with the bottom of the stem in a pan of water. Cut at least one inch off every time the stem is recut. Before placing the rose stems in a vase, remove any of the foliage that would be submerged.

Once arranged, keep your roses in a bright spot but out of direct sunlight. Blooms will last longer at cool temperatures so do not place your bouquet near heaters, fireplaces or in other warm areas. Avoid drafts and check vase water daily. Refill if the level decreases and change the water if it begins to look cloudy. With a little TLC, you can keep Valentine’s Day flowers looking fresh for days to come.

Potted miniature roses also make delightful Valentine’s Day gifts. With beckoning buds and petite blossoms, these attractive plants are hard to resist. The price is right too with grocery store florists often offering them at less than $10 a pop.

Miniature roses come in an array of sizes and colors. Photo by dmp2022.

Miniature roses are a bit more challenging than your average houseplant. Conditions for their continued healthy growth and bloom are more typically found in a greenhouse than in a home. They enjoy bright light, so place in a south or west window, where temperatures are on the cool side. Many are hardy and would do well when planted outside come spring. Perhaps they can be considered a temporary house plant guest rather than a permanent resident.

Many of these charming plants are perfectly hardy here. The key is to find miniature roses with tags that name the variety. Then, the plant can be looked up to see what its hardiness zone is. If hardy to USDA zone 5, it will likely survive in most Connecticut gardens.

While plants are indoors, check the potting medium frequently and make sure plants remain moderately moist but are not allowed to dry out. Since plants are actively growing, every other week mix up a dilute, quarter-strength houseplant fertilizer and use that to water them.

Keep plants in bright light and harden them off before transplanting outdoors in spring. Photo by dmp2022.

Remove any spent flowers and keep an eye out for yellowing leaves. These often indicate conditions that are too moist, too little light or not enough humidity. Although those decorative plastic or foil sleeves look attractive, they can block light and air flow. They can also prevent the pots from draining adequately after watering.

When the weather starts to warm and the danger of frost has passed, plants can be hardened off to set in the garden. Do this by starting plants out in a semi-shaded spot and gradually exposing them to more hours of sunlight each day. Miniature roses, like their full-size relatives, thrive in full sun, a fertile, well-drained soil in a site with good air circulation. Plants can also be moved up to larger size pots and grown in containers.

If you’re thinking your special someone has greater desires than a bouquet or miniature rose plant -perhaps a formal rose garden in mind – why not give a gift certificate to either a local garden center with a large rose selection or to a specialty rose catalog? Some mail order sources to consider include,,, and Note that the Antique Rose Emporium even carries a rose named ‘Valentine’!

For that rose gardener, a gift certificate to a nursery or rose catalog may be a lovely token of affection. Photo by dmp2016.

May all your Valentine’s Days be filled with lots of roses!

Dawn P.

In June I shared a visit to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, CT with you. Last week an outing took me to another beautiful garden site, Elizabeth Park, with three generations of ladies that included a dear friend, her mother, and my future daughter-in-law, Jamie. This was Jamie’s first encounter with Elizabeth Park as she is a recent transplant to the area from Long Island. It couldn’t have been a nicer day as the weather was warm but not hot with just enough cloud cover to allow us to walk about quite comfortably.

Elizabeth Park is of seven major parks that ring the city limits of Hartford, Connecticut and were created to benefit all of the citizens. Bushnell Park led the way in 1854 followed by Colt Park, Goodwin Park, Keeney Park, Pope Park, Riverside Park, and of course, Elizabeth Park by 1895. The lands for these parks were attained through purchase or bequest. Such is the case for Elizabeth Park which was bequeathed to the City of Hartford upon the death of Charles M. Pond in 1894. During his life, Charles Pond had acquired 90 acres that were bordered by Prospect Avenue on the east and Asylum Avenue on the north. His only request was that the park be named for his deceased wife Elizabeth who loved the flowers and many gardens around their vast estate. The site of the current rose garden was their nursery. Charles also left a very generous $100,000 fund for the ongoing care of the grounds, an amount roughly equal to $2.8 million today.


The original landscaping for Elizabeth Park was done by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted as he had retired in 1895. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and John Charles Olmsted followed in their famous and prolific father’s design footprints. The park now encompasses 101.45 acres and includes 12 different gardens, 4 greenhouses, 2 gazebos, 2 bridges, and a pond among various other outbuildings, sports fields, tracks, and playgrounds.

Annual bed 2

The day of our visit we saw people strolling the grounds, bikers and runners on the paths and roads, and dog-walkers that included 2 Portuguese water dogs that were enjoying a cool swim in the pond! Our daughter attended one of the many weddings that take place in the Rose Garden each year and we have been to one of the fun outdoor concerts that are held during the summer.

full garden

But the big draw always remains the flowers. The Rose Garden was the first municipal rose garden in the United States and is the third largest with well over 15,000 roses in 475 beds. If you think that it’s difficult to take care of your flower beds then just imagine the number of hours that it takes to care for 2½ acres of roses! The day of our visit the gardeners were trimming the arbors that line the 8 paths to the main gazebo, known as the Rustic Summer House, as those roses bloom mid-June to late July. They actually remove the clips that hold the trailing vines on the arbors, unwind them, trim them, and reattach each one. It seems quite a laborious process but the gardeners just worked steadily and systematically.

It was impossible to take in all of the roses that were still in bloom, many of which will continue to bloom into the fall. Each new variety was as beautiful as the next as these images show.

But the roses aren’t the only beautiful blooms at Elizabeth Park. The Annual Garden is planted in early June as the 10,000 tulips that were planted in the fall die back. Those bulbs are pulled out as they don’t always re-bloom but in their place is a circular annual garden with crescent-shaped beds of plants that were started from seed in the greenhouses. Some of our favorites included the sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, cleome, Cleome, and heliotrope, Heliotropium.

And Zinnias! Lots and lots of zinnias!

Walking from the greenhouses past the Annual Garden you come to the Perennial Garden. In existence since 1914, the Perennial Garden is an herbaceous delight of 8 large beds bordered by Japanese yew. The Japanese anemones, Anemone hupehensis var. japonica, also known as thimbleweed, were standouts with their delicate pink blooms above the purple stems.

A summersweet bush, Clethra alnifolia, with its upright panicles of white and pink were very attractive to the dozens of pollinators that seemed to be everywhere, including on the hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, the coneflowers, Echinacea, and the blue shrimp plant, Cerinthe major.

Other beautiful areas include the Horticultural gardens where herb beds, oleander (Nerium oleander), and giant castor bean (Ricinus communis) plants grow side-by-side.

The Julian and Edith Eddy Rock Garden is a shady and peacefully contemplative area with the spicy anise aroma of agastache (Agastache foeniculum).

Closer to the pond are the Charlie Ortiz Hosta Garden and of course, the renowned Pond House. I always thought that it was thus named due to its proximity to the Laurel Pond, but no, it is named for the Ponds.

The area surrounding the Pond House is worth a visit in and of itself just to encounter the quirky surprises that are around each corner, such as the stone face planter that peeks out of a slightly ajar door and the gravity-defying terra-cotta planters. The Pond House has a working kitchen garden that is full of herbs and vegetables that are used by the café where we enjoyed a delicious and relaxed lunch that gave us the break that we needed to head out to the gardens once again.

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work and money to sustain something as large as Elizabeth Park. In fact, in the 1970s, the City of Hartford had decided to plow the park under due to the expense of keeping it up. Fortunately, a group of volunteers formed the Friends of Elizabeth Park in 1977 and the Elizabeth Park Conservancy is still very instrumental in working with the City of Hartford to keep the park free and open to the public. If you are 18 years of age or older then you can volunteer to help in the maintenance of the park, just check out this link, Volunteer. Should you want to learn more about the history of Elizabeth Park there will be a free tour on Saturday, September 14th, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. starting at the flagpole outside of the green Cottage.

Susan Pelton

All images by S. Pelton, UConn, 2019

If it wasn’t for my grandmothers, I may not have developed such a love, even yearning, for gardening. There is something nurturing yet at the same time almost primal about having one’s hands in the rich, moist soil whether planting seeds, pulling weeds or collecting the harvest. That earthy aroma, the warm sunlight, a light breeze and time to savor these gifts of nature passes all too quickly.

Some of the greatest joys of my childhood were visiting my grandparents in Buffalo and helping (or so I thought) them tend to their flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. My father’s parents lived in a large 2-story home that at one time had housed the family grocery store. The Great Depression ended their ambition as storekeepers but their 7 kids had room to grow. Despite being on a small, city lot, they had magnificent pear and plum trees underplanted by flowers, herbs and vegetables. Who knew chervil tasted so good? Sometimes, when they came to visit my parents, they would bring a whole bushel of juicy Bartlett pears that my siblings and I would consume to our heart’s delight.

My mother’s parents were forced off their rather decent sized lot when the New York Thruway was built and resettled onto a postage stamp size lot a few towns over. Everyone’s back yard was treeless and bordered by a chain-linked fence. I remembered you could see all up and down the block. My grandmother brought her beloved rose bushes to her new home along with peonies and sedums. Soon a garden was created around the perimeter of the backyard for grandma’s roses and grandpa’s tomatoes and hot peppers.

Grandma & roses 1968

My grandmother next to her rose garden. Photo by dmp, 1968.

The three species my grandmother planted abundantly in the backyard were roses, coleus and self-seeding snapdragons. I was introduced to ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’. I never knew flowers had names before! I was mesmerized. Her favorite and, later mine, was ‘Peace’. She had 5 ‘Peace’ roses in her garden, one in the center back and two flanking each side as if standing guard over her aging yet peaceful life. Of course, peace and content are often short-lived and my grandfather died in 1977. My grandmother went to live with my parents. They turned part of the family room into a bedroom for her and I (in my younger years) turned the small garden bed I used to tend outside her windows into a small rose and Easter lily garden for her. ‘Peace’, of course was the first rose I planted along with every Easter lily anyone gave her.


‘Peace’ rose from http://www.heirloomroses. com

My grandmother almost made it to her 96th birthday. Every time I see a ‘Peace’ rose now, my mind wanders back to those unforgettable summer days spent hanging out on the glider in her back yard with the sweet smell of freshly mown lawn, the soft fragrance of roses drifting by and warmth of grandma’s love.

Scrolling through my horticulture news feeds a few weeks ago I came across a notice from the U.S. Postal Service about a new forever stamp. The ‘Peace’ rose forever stamp was introduced to the public last April at the headquarters of the American Rose Society in Shreveport, LA. At the ceremony were Sonia Meilland-Guibert, the granddaughter of the French rose breeder who created ‘Peace’ as well as a representative of Star Roses and Plants (formerly the Conard-Pyle), the company that introduced this rose to the American public at the end of World War II.

peace stamp

Peace forever stamp from

Why make a stamp honoring the ‘Peace’ rose? Because of its beauty and the heartwarming story that comes with it.

‘Peace’ was developed by third generation French rose breeder, Francis Meilland. Always on the lookout for new and unique roses, he meticulously made crosses and grew out the progeny. From a group of promising offspring, one tagged simply 3-35-40 (reputedly corresponding to the 3rd hybridization in 1935 and 40th cultivar selected for test proliferation) stood out among all others. Its perfect bud opened into a full, 40 to 43 petaled, 5-inch blossom of ivory yellow frosted at the edges with a soft pink. Leaves were a glossy, dark lush green and plants were erect, stately and vigorous.

Sam McGredy IV, the famous Northern Irish rose breeder is believed to have stated, “For the record, ‘Peace’ is the greatest rose of my time. It’s as nearly perfect as a rose can be.”

400px-Rose,_Peace_-_Flickr_-_nekonomania bud

A perfect ‘Peace’ rose bud. From:

Francis Meilland was so enamored with this new rose that he named it after his mother, Claudia, who had died at an early age. ‘Madame A. Meilland was introduced in France in 1942. She had many admirers and plans were to share her with the rest of the horticultural world. The impending invasions of France cast doubt upon these aspirations but with little more than hope and faith, bundles of budwood were hastily dispatched to Germany, Italy and the United States. Breeders in all 3 countries were enticed by its beauty with the Germans naming it ‘Gloria Dei’ (Glory of God) and the Italians calling it ‘Gioia’ (Joy).

In America, Robert Pyle of Conard-Pyle Co. in Pennsylvania propagated the budwood. A few rose plants were transported to the American Rose Society to be critiqued. It was 1945 and World War II was coming to an end. On VE Day, April 29, 1945, Conard-Pyle introduced the world to ‘Peace’ with the timing of the release being coincidental but meaningful. War weary citizens gladly purchased and planted this lovely rose both as a commemoration of the war and a return to peacetime activities, like flower gardening.

Since then, over 175 million ‘Peace’ roses have been sold. ‘Peace’ has won numerous horticultural awards and has been used as a parent in hundreds of crosses including my second favorite rose, ‘Double Delight’.


Double Delight from

A more detailed story of the ‘Peace’ rose can be found in Antonia Ridge’s book, For the Love of a Rose. With the release of the rose in 1945 came this simple statement: “We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of our time should be named for the world’s greatest desire: PEACE.” And I can’t help but think that as we approach another Memorial Day and honor those who served and passed before us, that if only all fighting would cease, the world could be at peace and this sight might be even more beautiful than this breathtaking rose.


When we moved into our house some 27 years ago, it came with a fair amount of plantings. The former owner was a member of the local garden club but age slowed her down and we were left with overgrown beds as well as some interesting specimens. Azaleas were discovered covered with wild marjoram, magenta garden phlox hid a stone wall and 4 perfectly sited plants laid the foundation for a white garden.

While the row of hostas lining the road was replaced by a picket fence and dahlias, the one old rambling rose was kept. It has a rickety trellis that has since been replaced twice and was underplanted with, of all things, goutweed which took me nearly 20 years to eradicate. I still check for new sprouts – just in case!

Being somewhat enamored with old roses, I set out to discover the name and origin of this rose. I could tell it was a rambler because its shoots were quite long and flexible and the plant grew with surprising vigor. Annual pruning is mandatory to maintain it – either that or give it a hefty pergola or other strong structure to train it onto. Also the compound leaves contain 7 leaflets and it only blooms once in June with clusters of medium pink, 1-inch, barely fragrant blooms.

Rosa_sp_271 from open commons Dorothy Perkins

Dorothy Perkins rose from: By Kurt Stüber [1] [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


After leafing through numerous books on roses (this was before the internet) I narrowed it down and had my findings confirmed by a member of the New England Rose Society who introduced me to ‘Dorothy Perkins’.

As it turns out, ‘Dorothy Perkins’ was the first rose named after a person. She was hybridized by Alvin Miller, who in 1884, was hired by Jackson & Perkins in Newark, NY. Charles H. Perkins (1840–1924) and his father-in-law, Albert E. Jackson (1807–1895) started a truck farm in 1872. Soon, their business began wholesaling ornamentals and Mr. Perkins decided that roses should be their main product. Mr. Miller’s first successful introduction in 1901 was named after Mr. Perkins’ granddaughter, Dorothy. The farm is now the site of Perkins Park and Vintage Gardens Bed and Breakfast on High Street.

In 1908 the ‘Dorothy Perkins’ rose won top honors from England’s Royal National Rose Society. It became a popular variety and reputedly grows up the walls of Windsor Castle to this day. Darker red and white cultivars were also developed.

While ‘Dorothy Perkins’ is a hardy and vigorous with abundant, attractive blooms, she has not been sold by Jackson &Perkins for quite a while now and is only available through a few specialty nurseries. The main reason is her susceptibility to powdery mildew which I can attest to. Depending on the weather, sometimes all the foliage and blossoms are affected. She also is sought after by rose slugs and this year I found both Eastern tent caterpillars and gypsy moths grazing on the foliage.

Eastern tent caterpillar, gypsy moth, rose slug damage & powdery mildew

Why do I keep this old lady? I guess it’s because I like her attitude. No matter how cold the winters or how dry the summers, she always comes back. Even if most of her foliage dies back from rose slugs or powdery mildew she cheerfully puts on a new coat of green. There is not a lot in life that one can depend on these days, but good old Dorothy is strong and steadfast and sometimes just the anchor in the garden that one needs.