Heritage Roses

In the face of climate change and energy challenges, what creative ways are you finding to forge healthy and durable lives and communities? Send submissions — five hundred words or fewer — to Orion, 187 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230, or via {encode=”moa@orionsociety.org” title=”e-mail”}. Submissions become property of Orion.

I am the town secretary and historian in a central New York village of fewer than six hundred people. Our local museum has undertaken a garden project that is both daunting and rewarding. Originally, its purpose was to reintroduce heritage roses into the gardenscapes of this tiny, historic town and its surrounding communities. Rose gardens abounded here in the early 1800s and on into the 1930s. But roadside clearing, the dismantling of large estate gardens, and the general apathy that affects many small communities have all but eliminated the once substantial population of “old roses” from the area. After acquiring a small grant, we started buying rare, old roses, as well as scouring the local hills and valleys for specimens and trading with collectors from all over the United States. We now have a pretty decent collection of heritage roses and are getting many of them to propagate.

Through the Live Monarch Foundation, our garden has recently become a butterfly preserve, and we are busy planting milkweed to assist in the effort to re-establish the monarch butterfly population in the U.S. This butterfly garden will become a grade school project next year for our local children. In addition, we are getting ready to build a pavilion for community use in the center of the garden, and we are applying to the Audubon Society for designation as a bird sanctuary. We have planted many bird-friendly shrubs and flowers and have hopes for finishing the project in 2009.

In the beginning, this garden project attracted a lot of negativity. Many on the museum board said it was a waste of time and money, but several of us remained persistent, and we are finding that people are changing their views. Everyone is invited to wander through the garden, have a picnic, or just sit and relax. It is community projects like this small garden that help define the character of an area and make people aware of their past.