Tales from the Garden – Part 1

I love gardening. I took it up many years ago when I had a high stress job and was looking for a way to relax. Several of my friends suggested Yoga. I took a class but never seemed to be able to really get into it. Fortunately I had summers off. One summer, I decided to volunteer at the Chicago Botanic Garden. That’s when I realized I’d found something wonderful.

CBG Rose Garden 1


From the Chicago Botanic Garden

I looked forward to driving out there one day a week and either working in the garden or showing people around.

The first year I worked as part of a team in the rose garden. I learned a lot about roses that summer. The Heirloom or Old Garden Roses were all introduced before 1867 and have a wonderful fragrance. But, usually they only bloom once a season. The Modern Roses, which came after, usually bloom continually from summer to the first frost, but they have no fragrance.

When the flowers die, you don’t just cut the dead ones off. You have to cut in just the right place so the plant will grow more buds and continue to have flowers.

It’s important to clean up the dead flowers that have fallen to the ground and other debris. Roses can get infected with various diseases. It’s important to keep them healthy.

It’s also necessary to choose the correct rose for the climate you’re living in. In Illinois and Michigan, we need roses that are winter hardy. That means they can survive the cold and ice and snow and return in the spring ready to bloom again.

Roses need sun and lots of it. So it’s essential to find a place that gets six hours of direct sun a day. It’s even better if it’s morning sun.

CBG Rose Garden 2


From the Chicago Botanic Garden

I learned many other things about roses that summer. But, most important, every time I started driving out to the Chicago Botanic Garden, I felt myself start to relax. I felt all my tension and stress start to dissolve and float away and realized I was smiling.

Next time I’ll tell you what happened the second summer I volunteered.


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    • Kelly Bixby on September 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply

    My patience for gardening is decreasing as demands on my time increase. However, I love the beauty of a well-manicured yard and lovingly cared-for plants. I’m glad volunteers like you, Claire, give of your knowledge and skills for the enjoyment of others.

      • Claire Murray on September 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Kelly! That’s nice to hear.

    • Sue Remisiewicz on August 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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    Working in my garden is one of my favorite ways to relax. Even if I’m just pulling weeds it can be a meditative experience. Thank you for the tips about maintaining roses.

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:32 pm
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      You’re welcome. 🙂 I agree. I can still just feel the tension melt away every time I go out in the garden.

    • Ann Chowdhury on August 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm
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    I enjoyed your blog Claire and share your love of gardening. I have never visited the Chicago Botanical Gardens but would love to after reading of your experience? I do have a friend who lives in a condo in Chicago and she helps in some small gardens which have been created in what were empty city blocks and now look just beautiful!

    • Book Lover on August 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm
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    Claire, you were so blessed to be able to find your passion in the flowers at the Botanical Gardens. Your pictures are beautiful. I like the look and smell of flowers, however, I haven’t been able to grow flowers or plants without disastrous results.

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm
      • Reply

      Yes, it’s always an adventure. In the beginning I wasn’t so sure either. It’s such a gamble. But I’ve always believed, if you can imagine it, you can create it.

    • Kook-Wha Koh on August 24, 2015 at 11:05 am
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    It is very informative for the roses in Michigan.
    I have a rose garden in my office and my old home.

    I enjoyed to read it.

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:29 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Kook-Wha. I didn’t realize you had rose gardens. I have one in front of my house here, facing the street: Nine Knockouts. They do wonderfully in this climate.

    • Karen Kittrell on August 24, 2015 at 9:20 am
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    Claire, The Chicago Botanic Garden is one of my favorite places on this planet. I hope you will write more on this subject. We returned to the Chicago Botanic this spring on a cold April day to stroll the peaceful Japanese gardens. On the way back to the main building I peeked in at the walled garden – the memories – always a place of fantasy for my children as toddlers. My family vetoed any additional time in the dropping temperatures, and I missed the espaliered trees, another favorite. Did you volunteer in any of the other gardens?

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:25 pm
      • Reply

      That’s so nice to hear. Yes, I was a docent in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden as well as the Walled Garden and for several exhibits. I had a lot of fun showing people around. Thanks!

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:28 pm
      • Reply

      Karen, I am having so much trouble leaving this comment. You wouldn’t believe it. What I was/am trying to say is: (I hope I tricked the computer this time.) That’s so nice to hear. Yes, I was a docent in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden as well as the Walled Garden and for several exhibits. I had a lot of fun showing people around. Thanks!

  1. A really nice way to relax. I’m looking forward to hearing more ?

      • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:23 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks! That’s nice to hear.

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