From the street, the Rogue River home of Paul Brown and Sherry Purkiser looks like most other yards in the neighborhood. A few rose bushes grow in front of the house, and some choice perennials and shrubs line the front walkway. But, reminiscent of The Secret Garden, once you step from the house out onto the back patio you emerge into a different world — one filled with colorful blossoms, meticulously maintained flower beds and lots of roses.
"We always had a garden when I was growing up," says Paul. "My mother loved her roses and I helped her take care of the garden." He looks around, smiles, and adds "I guess I picked something up from her!" That's a bit of an understatement. Paul's garden features about 70 different varieties of roses in a dazzling variety of colors, sizes and growth habits.
In Paul and Sherry's backyard, a network of gravel paths wends between raised flower beds planted with a rich combination of perennials, shrubs and — of course — roses. That's a far cry from what the yard looked like when the couple bought the property in 2000. "We had the roof overhang where the patio is now, and one path," says Sherry. "Everything else we built ourselves."
Although the property was short on hardscaping, it did have a number of features they were looking for, including a view of Evans Creek and excellent soil. "The soil is a nice sandy loam," says Paul. "At one time, they raised strawberries here, so the soil is great." After spending their first year putting in flower beds and installing a drip irrigation system, the gardens were ready for Paul's roses.
Paul's selection of rose varieties was driven by several factors. "I look for good, hardy roses that really produce," he says. "We have a lot of hybrid teas; they've got nice long stems for cutting. I also love some of the shrub roses, like 'Sally Holmes,' for their heavy bloom." Both Paul and Sherry take a lot of pleasure in cutting roses to bring into the house, and they enjoy having fragrant varieties like 'Double Delight,' 'Fragrant Cloud' and 'Chrysler Imperial' for bouquets. "I prune so that the bushes produce a lot of flowers," he adds. "When the garden is in full bloom in early summer, we can cut four or five dozen roses out of here and never even notice anything missing."
Complementing the roses in the garden, flowering shrubs like deciduous azalea, Pieris japonica and viburnum give the garden structural interest. A number of long-blooming perennials have a place — lupine, peony, delphinium, and Shasta daisies — and frequently find their ways into bouquets.
The maintenance on this garden is surprisingly simple and straightforward. "I use a 13-13-13 fertilizer on the roses," says Paul. "And we're on 100 percent drip irrigation." In addition, the beds are mulched to retain moisture and keep the weeds down. Paul readily admits to spending a lot of time working in the garden, but it's time he clearly relishes. "This time of year, I try to work in the garden two hours a day. I walk around the garden every morning, looking each plant over. That way I can spot any new pests right away, before they become a problem."
Two fluffy orange cats come bounding through the garden and disappear again into the foliage, and the sound of fountains mingles with the sound of Evans Creek. You can definitely see where spending a lot of time working in this garden doesn't require much sacrifice!
Just when you think you've seen everything, Paul reveals one more secret garden: a small, intensive vegetable garden, complete with a fig tree and a fence full of grape vines. The fig and grapes were projects from Paul's master gardener's class. "We had to do several bud and graft projects in the class. The fig and grapes came from there." The garden apparently produces quite well. "I probably bring 100 pounds each of tomatoes and zucchini to the Rogue River Community Center every summer to share with our neighbors," he says, "along with lots of bouquets of fresh flowers."
Maybe Paul Brown's garden isn't such a secret after all!