Grandma Collins’ hansa rose bush is blooming profusely. It’s the citadel of the rock garden, and its commanding presence at the entrance requires clipping for me to even get into the rest of the area. The heady clove aroma of the petals puts me right back in Grandma’s front yard of her house just a block off Main Street in Stettler, Alberta.
That hansa bush has followed us—from our home on Calder Avenue in Saskatoon where we first brought it from Grandma’s front yard when she sold her house in the summer of 1988 and moved into the Heart Haven Lodge. The hansa bush struggled in its new location, and I remember asking a worker at a garden center if I should give up on it. He told me to “give it time.”
We moved to Calgary in 1995, and the hansa rose bush moved with us. The only place to put it was in the north-facing back yard where it didn’t get enough sun. But, it persevered although it didn’t fully bloom.
When Doug and I moved it to our developing acreage in the spring of 2005, we placed it at the top of the newly formed rock garden facing southeast. Since that time it is laden with roses from mid-June until early September. I remove dead canes and trim it back a bit in the spring. Columbines, bronze bearded irises, and thyme grow around its base.
I have no idea how old that hansa rose bush might be, but I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in Grandma Collins’ front yard so I know it’s at least as old as I am. The hansa rose was developed in 1905 in the Netherlands. It was widely planted on the prairies because of its hardiness and resistance to disease. I wish I knew whether it originally came from my grandparents’ farm near Fenn, southwest of Stettler. They moved into Stettler in 1946, and my guess is that the rose bush may have been planted at that time. I regret not having asked more about its history when Grandma was still alive to tell me that story.
My Granny Lohr’s garden and yard were wonders. I’ve never seen a farm yard as lovely, and she grew a diverse blend of flowers. What I remember most are the ferns, the snapdragons, and the violas—which she called “Johnny jump-ups.” We dug up some of those ferns from Granny’s yard and planted them first in our Calgary yard and then at the acreage. They spread slowly but surely, and, with some help from me relocating them where I want to expand the fern bed, they thrive in the shaded areas under the back deck. They co-exist beautifully with the multi-colored columbines and astilbes.
One of my fondest childhood memories is helping Granny water the flowers in her yard. Granny let me gently snap open the snapdragons’ mouths as we wandered the yard with sprinkling cans in hand. Now my grandchildren help me water when they are visiting. Although our youngest grandchild waters his feet as much as the flowers, he’s always eager to help.
Johnny jump-ups (violas) grew on the path from the back door to the base of the windmill in Granny’s and Grandpa’s yard. I loved the violas little cheery faces. Now I let violas roam almost freely wherever they wish in our yard.
I buy three pots of pansies—one for each grandchild. I inadvertently left the pansy pots on the floor of the upper deck and came home to find that all the petals on two of the three pots were neatly snipped off. I blame the rabbits as I’ve seen them on the back deck. They must have been full because the third pot of pansies was untouched.
As we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1st, I remember the flowers that grew in the yards of my grandparents. One more way to pass on family history and celebrate this great country of Canada is to keep the flowers and plants blooming. Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers.