Looking For Pearls: Oasis blooms on Eisenhower
There was a lot of inhaling going on at April’s Botanical Garden Rose Festival.
There is a beautiful old image of St. Theresa, the Little Flower, raining a shower of rose petals down from the heavens. And she is still known to send a fragrance of roses in response to a whispered prayer.
On a perfect Saturday at the Savannah Botanical Gardens on Eisenhower last month, she was shining down, big time. For hundreds of people, the Rose Festival there was a feast for the eyes and nostrils.
The idyllic 10-acre oasis is right next to Hospice House. It is maintained by volunteers from 15 of the city’s garden clubs along with the Coastal Master Gardener Association and the Savannah Rose Society.
The garden is laid out with wave after wave of roses of every shade, big patches of Iceberg whites, St. Patrick yellows with a green cast, blankets of soft pinks and zones of deepest reds.
The garden contains roses of subtle hues and magical names like the tender pink Tess of the d’Urbervilles, an intoxicating red Marilyn Monroe, a buttery Teasing Georgia and a faint apricot Queen of Sweden.
Then there is even a special area identified as the “Fragrant Rose Collection.” Sure enough, the smells climb up notches I couldn’t expect.
There is a Myrrh group with scents that take you back to the Magi, a Musk group that evokes Himalayan shrines, a Fruit Spice group with varieties like Fragrant Cloud and Heaven on Earth, and a Damask group that reminds you of fine linens.
And there are piles of beautiful flowers other than roses. A swarm of French lavender flowers seems to dance like butterflies around the Bird Girl statue.
There are bright yellow daylilies, black-eyed Susans, lilac-colored Lily of the Nile and pure white Calla lilies that seem to float in the air.
The Julia Child rose stands fittingly next to a lush herb garden full of rosemary, basil, pineapple mint, golden marjoram, lemongrass, lamb’s ear, chamomile and more.
There is a vegetable area that would make the cover of the Burpee catalog with snow peas, Swiss chard, ruby lettuce and massive squash blossoms. Julia Child seemed to be watching them, too.
There is a fall garden, shade trees and trellises, flowering crabapple trees, white quince and pomegranate, loquats, dogwoods and mulberry trees.
Visitors can see a unique weeping yaupon holly, a river birch with shaggy bark, crape myrtles, azaleas and camellias galore.
Beyond the gardens, there is a pond surrounded by willows and cattails and nature trails laid out by Eagle scouts that lead through old hardwoods along a forest floor carpeted with ivy and through cool stands of tall ferns. You’ll find Thoreau back there writing in his notebook and Monet painting at his easel.
The gardens and the historic antebellum Reinhard House on the grounds are available for weddings. I’ve seen hundreds of white petals line the grass where a bride has walked. The day after, a little stiff and dry, they crunch under your feet with a hushed sound all their own.
Lapsing into “Dear Abby” mode, I would offer this advice for couples thinking of getting married — go for a quiet walk around the Botanical Garden, holding hands. If that doesn’t tip the scales, then you’re not ready.
Saintly Monsignor Felix Donnelly once told my wife about a special Penance he gave husbands who came to confession. Instead of assigning a number of prayers to be said, he asked them to give a dozen roses to their wives in her favorite color. Not because it was Mother’s Day or her birthday — just out of the blue. Just because.
Later, he told me how he came up with the idea. He said he felt that all roses lead to love. I asked did he mean “all roads.”
“No,” he said. “All roses.”
Ben Goggins, a retired marine biologist, lives on Tybee Island. He can be reached at 786-6181.