Virginia Robinson Gardens Offers Extraordinary Salve: Volunteering at the Gardens

An Inspirational Message from Friends of Robinson Gardens Member Laura Coleman.

Mornings spent in the Virginia Robinson Gardens are among the most beautiful experiences imaginable. From walking through the King Palm Forest in the mist, the scent of water lifting off leaves, to that first rewarding vista of Virginia and Harry Robinson’s onetime home, every moment spent at the Gardens is a treasure.

Amidst the turmoil of the pandemic, all of us are living life to the best of our capacities. And all of us have fear in our hearts that our loved ones could be afflicted. To say that the Gardens offer an immensely soothing respite during this time is truly an understatement.

When Tim Lindsay, the Superintendent, first suggested I volunteer at the Gardens, it was as though something loosened in my heart. I could do that? Of course, he told me, and the gardens will be happy to have you. For me, a pair of shears and a seemingly endless supply of roses proved to be just the sort of salve I needed.

On my first day of volunteering, two months ago now, Tim taught me to deadhead roses. Initially, I moved through the tiers of the Display Rose Garden, methodically working from rose varietal to rose varietal, a spray of alcohol or a dab of sanitizer to the shears between them, and snip, snip. With great attention, I’d count up three nodes along the stem from the bulb, look around at the leafed little offshoot about to survive the pruning, and snip away whatever was bound for the green waste bin or a flower vase. I used two metal buckets, one for roses that could be artfully arranged and one for roses past their prime. Alone amidst the terraced roses, some bushes so deeply covered that it could take 15 minutes to move tenderly through the process, the hours easily passed.

As I moved through the property, deadheading roses along the Great Lawn’s perimeter, I further appreciated how the plants grow with their environment, the feel and shape of the petals, and the smell of the flowers. Inhaling a rose’s fragrance can be sublime. For particularly deliciously scented roses, time comes to an utter standstill. At the Gardens, a place for which I have held a deep love for almost a decade now and where I have forged so many extraordinary relationships, pausing to appreciate the environment, even for a moment, can be profound.

Eventually, I moved onto the Display Rose Garden beside the Pool Pavilion, where dense bushes of roses challenged me repeatedly. In fact, in the beginning, I was often intimidated at the prospect of pruning a new bush, many a canvas more white, pink or red, depending on the rose, than green from the leaves. Still, I methodically reembarked on the deadheading process, each time growing a little more sure as I mercilessly pruned away hundreds of roses, leaving bushes with just a bulb or two, or just the promise of a few impending blooms.

After disposing of a full bucket of clippings, I wash the cut roses in the laundry room in preparation for arranging the flowers in vases, its own form of therapy. Occasionally, silver spiders scamper away from the running water, and even once a lady bug. Seeing the often short-stemmed roses artfully displayed in multiple vases gives me genuine pride. And to my immense joy, sometimes upon returning with the next batch of cut roses, a vase of florals has been spirited away for someone to enjoy.

In truth, my time as a volunteer with the Gardens has proven incomparable. I look forward to continuing to be involved with the magical Virginia Robinson Gardens.

Robinson Garden Volunteers

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