A Fellow Gardener’s ‘Garden Walks: Journey of a Lifetime’

9 08 2011

Chris Vancleave "The Redneck Rosarian"

I’m about the luckiest guy I know, well I feel like it anyways and I’ll tell you why fellow gardeners. I got lots of friends. Now I got friends I’ve known for 60 years, been through thick and thin with’em too. They’ve had my back at times and I’ve had theirs too. Now you got friends you see everyday and you got friends you don’t see as much anymore as you’d like but that doesn’t mean you don’t like them as much as you used to, you know what I mean fellow gardeners? I know you do, especially you fellow gardeners that are kinda long in the tooth now like me…..:-) Life kinda gets in the way, folks move, you move, folks are busy, other folks are not so busy and just looking for something to do and wondering, “hey where did everybody go?”…:-)

And then, well then you got friends you ain’t never seen before. You might have seen a picture of them or maybe not, they’re you’re friends and you think of them that way and they treat that way too. But you wouldn’t know them from “Adam’s house cat” (as my granny used to say) if you saw them on the street. And for about as long as folks have sent and received letters or phone calls you can have a friend you ain’t never seen. Now in the internet age, the age we’re in now we’re really lucky, we can make friends that we’ve never see in person, up close and personal. But we can chat online with them as we get to know them better and better, we can instant message each other till the “cows come home” (as my granny used to say), we can email each other till our “inbox” is overflowing with little missives to one another and now we can video conference each other as long as we comb our hair first and put the camera at an angle that is the most complimentary to us. I can just about get my video cam on my computer setup to where I look just like Brad Pitt but it takes me awhile to do it, you know just the right light and focus…..:-) And after all that we still can’t shake hands with each other or give each other a hug but we can become friends and we do. In fact I made a good friend online here lately and his name is Chris Vancleave and he’s from Alabama too.

Now Chris is kinda like me in that not only is he Chris Vancleave but he’s “The RedNeck Rosarian” too. ( I love that name) Kinda like I’m Paul Daniels but when I sit down at this computer I miraculously become “Paul From Alabama”, I tell you fellow gardeners will “wonders never cease?” (as my granny used to say, you might be beginning to think my granny used to say lots of things, and you’re right, she did….:-)) So we got a Chris Vancleave that’s “The Redneck Rosarian” and a Paul Daniels that’s a “Paul From Alabama”.  We live in amazing times fellow gardeners…..:-) Now who or what in the world is the Redneck Rosarian? Well let me let Chris tell you himself from his website….

He’s what Chris has to say “About” the Redneck Rosarian:

“The term Rosarian is used loosely, redneck, liberally. Roses are for everyone! If I can do it, anyone can! This blog began as a hand written journal of my garden activities and was transcribed into an online journal of my roses and my life…. Full time banker Husband and Dad. Sometime short term missionary and gentleman Gardner. My life is filled with a wonderful family, great friends, beautiful roses, and God’s richest blessings. He has allowed me to travel the globe on short term mission trips. He has opened my eyes to a million wonders, including the awesome beauty of the rose.

I have been growing roses for years and about 4 years ago joined a local Rose Society to learn a “more excellent” way to cultivate our nation’s “National Floral Emblem”. It is fun and exciting to be a part of a group of individuals who are committed to excellence. I strive alongside them to grow the best roses I can. Many of my blooms do not end up on the show table, they end up on the dinner table and on the front doorsteps of friends and co-workers. Either way, I feel I am doing my part to expand the general interest and knowledge of the beautiful gift we have in the Rose.”

– Chris VanCleave aka “The RedneckRosarian” http://www.redneckrosarian.com/


So we got us a “Redneck Rosarian” that not only grows his own beautiful roses and shares his knowledge of growing them with others but now he’s the President of Birmingham Rose Society too. The more I learn about this guy the more I like and admire him. Now he wrote an article a couple of weeks ago in the http://www.shelbycomagazine.com/ and I liked it so much I wanted to share it here with you fellow gardeners. If you’re like me and have had a father you loved but is not with you anymore or if you are lucky enough to still have your father with you, well either way. Or if you’re a gardener or even you aren’t and if you’re father was a gardener like Chris’s was or even if you father wasn’t a gardener like mine wasn’t, well you’re gonna enjoy reading this and I hope you get as much out of it when you read it as I did. Well I reckon I’ve talked enough fellows gardeners, but don’t feel like you have to agree with me too quickly….:-)

Garden Walks: The Journey of a Lifetime

I never thought of myself as an early riser. Actually, I used to cringe under my pillow as a boy when my dad would rise at 4 a.m. to prepare for the day. He always rattled around in the kitchen making a goliath-sized bowl of grits and a simmering pot of fresh brewed coffee. The rattling was his way of trying to rouse me up to spend some time with him. Sadly, more often than not, I would remain in bed.

His morning routine was predictable in the months of summer: a full pot of coffee, breakfast, a garden walk, and then he was off to work. My dad loved his vegetable garden. He grew big juicy “Better Boy” tomatoes, sweet smelling cantaloupes, crisp cucumbers, dark green zucchini, spring lettuce, radishes and carrots. He would walk the garden performing any number of tasks that the circumstance demanded; gathering the harvest, pulling weeds, suckering tomato plants, applying SEVIN dust, watering, fertilizing, etc. He cared about his garden. He loved to watch things grow. These garden walks were essential to the health of his garden and a key to his own happiness. He was a better person for having walked his garden each day.

Tragically, my dad never lived to see my gardening endeavors. He was killed in a senseless automobile accident when I was 12. His departure left a gaping hole in my life and for years we struggled to piece our lives back together. Our garden and our gardener were gone. But you know, life has a way of turning around. I grew up, married, had children and now have a garden of my own to tend. Now, I am the one up each morning at 5:30 a.m., rattling around to make coffee then grabbing my camera and pruners. I am out the door each day for my morning garden walk. We don’t grow vegetables. We grow flowers, in particular roses. We now cultivate over 60 varieties. The roses are all mixed in with an assortment of annuals and perennials that enrich our lives in many ways. My walks, like my dad’s are filled with activity. I blog weekly about my rose gardening adventures, so I snap pictures of the best blooms, deadhead spent ones, pull weeds, spray for pests or disease, pray for rain or my favorite activity, collecting blooms to share with friends and family.

When I look back at those years with my dad, I remember our final garden walk together, just two days before he was taken from us. We talked about how next year we would plant pumpkins and that it was time to turn the garden under for its winter rest. His words were filled with promise and hope. Gardeners live on the promise of “next year.” It’s the hope of things to come. This spring, my son and I worked in the garden together. He helped me construct three raised beds for new roses. He’s not much of a gardener or an early riser, but I’m working on him. Life has come full circle.

Instinctively, I think some people are drawn to the earth. For many Alabama gardeners, the decision to get out in the garden, put your hands in the dirt and grow something is as much a part of who we are as what football team we cheer for. It’s an essential part of life. Gardening feeds us physically, mentally, spiritually and without our gardens, we would fail to live up to our full potential.

Chris VanCleave is the President of the Birmingham Rose Society. www.redneckrosarian.com

Addendum: I knew you’d like that, that’s why I wanted to share it with you folks. But how did I know you’d like it? Cause I know everything that’s why and how do I know that I know everything fellow gardeners? Why that’s what my granny used to say…..:-)

Paul From Alabama








4 responses

9 08 2011
Nell Jean

A garden is the only place I know where you can be really close to those who aren’t with us any more.

Chris has been one of my imaginary friends for a while now. He-who-mows dubbed them ‘imaginary friends’ back when I first had online friends when graphics were like this: ———<–<–@. That's how one of Chris' long stemmed roses would have been delivered back then, instead of the .jpeg beauties we see now.

Anyhow, He-who was amazed one day when I said, "You remember Cookie from Indiana and Jim from New Zealand, my imaginary friends? Here's a picture from their wedding in my email."

12 08 2011

Like you, I think of the garden as a place to be with those that aren’t with us anymore. I used to think of the cemetery as such a place but since gardening, really gardening year after year I’m beginning to think my loved ones that have past on are somewhere in my garden when I’m there. I don’t know if they’re there when I’m not to project them from my mind or if they only show up when I’m there…..either way or either case it’s nice to have them there with me…….

Your ———<-<, reminds me of the old chat rooms from long ago and then new technologies let us post little stamp shaped pictures of ourselves. I had a hard time fitting myself on to a postage stamp like icon, I was a bit cramped but folks could tell who i was I reckon…..:-)

I love the way you refer to 'He-who-mows and He-who was amazed……I get tickled every time I read that……:-)

10 08 2011
Christi Gibson

Thank you for sharing, Paul. for the last 7 years my flower garden has been my passion as I am sure you understand. We have had no rain since February and we have set the record for the hottest summer in history, 110 almost everyday…..not under 100 for over 40 days. To say my garden is struggling is an understatement. Pretty much looks like a torch has been liberally used on everything. Have to get my walk in early and really not much I can do to help things. Like watching a dear friend die. I also live by the gardener’s creed….next year.

12 08 2011

Me too Christi about “next year”, our saving grace in all situations I guess. Your situation sounds like mine in 2007. Here is what I thought about 2007 in a nut shell….


I sure hope you folks will get some rain soon and maybe you can have a nice fall ending to an other wise has been a pretty rough year for you folks in Texas……..

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