The Hope Rose and a Wondrous Old Rose Garden
Updated: Jul 14
My husband and I looked down at our sad miniature rose.
"I don't think it's going to make it," Peter said.
When Peter gave me the little rose bush, it boasted a wealth of tiny red blossoms. Now, we knew the rose was in trouble.
The plant struggled to thrive on the shaded deck of our Berkeley apartment. In an attempt to find more sun, we moved the plant container several times, Nothing helped and it was discouraging to see the leaves dropping off every day.
Just when the rose looked its worst, Peter and I had the opportunity to move to a cottage in Modesto—the first home of our own. Of course, we kept to the motto, "No living thing left behind." Our small band of travelers included Babbitt, my miniature white rabbit with the delicate gray ears and paws, two energetic parakeets...and the rose.
Best of all, our new home had a yard of its own. We planted the rose in a place filled with abundant sunshine. But, we thought it was too late.
To our delight, the floundering rose took hold. The miniature plant gained momentum each year. Finally, it grew so big it was as tall and lush as the regular roses we'd also planted.
The blossoms rejected any idea of being miniature. In the summer, they showed up in great swirls of crimson petals. The leaves—green and healthy—stayed put.
We called it the "Hope Rose," and it encouraged us during those inevitable times when things were difficult.
A Wondrous Old Rose Garden
I've been thinking of the Hope Rose as I've become immersed, in my imagination, with a lovely place of old roses. They grew on the cosmopolitan Wooded Island, a part of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
In the book I'm closing in on finishing, Mystery Fair, the Wooded Island is the center of secrets. Christie and Melina must fathom a dangerous mystery when they try to discover what happened to Melina's vanished father.
Despite the danger and mystery going on in my book, the Wooded Island was designed as a much-needed retreat.
In Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing's excellent book, I learned that more than 27 million visitors arrived at the Chicago World's Fair between May and October 1893. There were 214 fanciful buildings to explore on 633 acres, The noise, hurry and overwhelming choices of things to see left guests longing for a break.
The Wooded Island provided a green haven with its peaceful winding paths, many kinds of sheltering trees and a delightful bouquet of living flowers.
And at the southern end of the island, on over an acre of land, grew the rose garden. Weary fairgoers, after crossing a graceful bridge spanning a lagoon, first noticed the difference when the scent of thousands of roses wafted their way.
Countries from all over the world had sent their best roses to Chicago. As visitors strolled along the rose garden paths, 2,000 beautiful varieties of roses unfolded before their eyes.
Roses engage every sense—the smooth velvet of the rose petals, the different shapes and colors of each blossom, and over all, the lovely scent of romantic roses from ancient varieties.
When guests finally emerged from the Wooded Island's rose garden, I wonder if they sat down on one of the rustic benches to let it all sink in before heading out to the next sight.
It must have been a magical place. I like to think my Hope Rose would have fit right in with all the beautiful, world-traveling roses on the island garden.