MEMO BLOG Memo Calendar Memo Pad Business Memos Loaves & Fishes Letters Home
Golfers tee off on Roberts, Metro
Smith offers candidates Mid-county tour
Lord Stanley's Cup visits Kingdom
Boss Hawg's takes it on the chin for children
Not your father's lunch lady
East Portland rose winners share blooms with you

About the MEMO
MEMO Archives
MEMO Advertising
MEMO Country (Map)
MEMO Web Neighbors
MEMO Staff

© 2011 Mid-county MEMO
Terms & Conditions
East Portland rose winners share blooms with you


Merrill and Karen Allen certainly do not need an award to get their garden noticed!
If you chance across the precarious intersection of 92nd and Freemont St. in late spring, you may experience a sudden urge to stop and smell the roses. An artist's palette of bright floral faces teetering on thorny stems cascade in layers around the perimeter of the tidy house on the hill, begging for attention and welcoming the coming of summer. One cannot help but notice this greeting card garden, so it stands to reason why its tenders, Karen and Merril Allen, won the Frank L. Beach Visibility Award in addition to other accolades presented last June when the Royal Rosarians announced the winners of the annual Rose Garden Contest.

Though presented in conjunction with the Royal Rosarian contest, the Frank L. Beach Visibility Award is actually sponsored by the City of Portland, on behalf of a foundation established by its namesake with the aim of ensuring that Portland forever remains the Rose City. Before the prevalence of the automobile, Portland earned its nickname due to roses lining its streets. As the practice waned with the rise of traffic, Mr. Beach founded the award to encourage floral ornamentation and preserve Portland's legacy.

The Allen's garden presents a perfect example of the power of this pretty plant. Circling their house like a crown of flowers, the husband and wife gardening team has created a sanctuary in the city, with Karen's careful tending of the plants and Merril's landscaping accents creating an outdoor living space of sorts with walkways, fountains, benches and arbors.

Such blending of plants and other objects into the beds have disqualified the Allens from the Formal Rose Garden category for which they initially won the Grand Challenge when they first started competing in the Royal Rosarian contest years back. As defined by the Royal Rosarians, the arbitrators of the contest, a rose garden is an enclosure for displaying roses in a confined setting that does not include other plant material of any kind.

Instead, the Allen's garden, with its varied beds and other structures, won first place this year in the Rose Plantings division. “The formal rose gardens are typically like the Washington park Rose Garden; they are laid out there and it is very nice,” explained Karen, “but this (her garden) has more variety; we mix the roses. It is more like a 'cottage garden' where you have a lot of different kinds of things especially at different seasons.” The term 'cottage garden' hearkens back to the English country cottage style of gardening and is reflected in the oasis of flowers off Fremont Street. Karen credits teamwork in creating this charming garden that has earned the couple multiple awards, “He (Merril) sculpts and plants and does all kinds of cool stuff adding rock work. He designs places and spaces, it is sort of like we are trying to have different garden rooms, different spaces with different feels to it. It always looks nice; we try to make it look nice; (it) is more for us and if it happens to win, then fine.”

The garden has won some sort of recognition each year they have entered the annual Royal Rosarian Rose Garden Contest. “We won the grand challenge award in 2008, miniatures in 2009, plantings in 2009,” recited Karen, though she confessed she does not keep track of all the awards. Their view from the street won first place in the Visibility Award in 2009, but they finally clinched the grand prize in the category this year, in addition to receiving the Prime Minister's trophy in rose plantings and the east Portland senior citizen's category.

“It is always exciting to have the Allens enter the Annual Royal Rosarian Rose Garden Contest,” commented contest chair Bernie Taylor, “Their garden is always so lovely that it is a treat to judge it.”

The Royal Rosarian contest was established in 1938 to honor the rose and its role in Portland. Any rose grower may enter, though to win requires adherence to specific guidelines, lots of work and discipline. Judges grade on design and layout, soil condition (adequate mulching), pruning, maintenance (no fallen petals or signs of pests), vigor and bloom quality. Divisions were established for the plants: formal rose gardens, rose plantings, miniatures, visibility, and for the participants: senior citizens, commercial, special circumstances, professionals. Divisions also break down further to include recognitions for new plantings and the number of plantings. Any category must follow the strictures above, which, as Karen will tell you, “…is really work. Around that time there is usually unpredictable weather. If it is bad, I end up vacuuming the petals up because they don't want any petals. Well, that is really hard to do! Though the garden itself is really beautiful it is a lot of work to get it to that (state for contest judging).”

As for next year, the Allens will most likely sit out. Though winning a specific category disqualifies the participant from re-entering that same category for two years, the Allens could enter another category next year if they so chose. However, Karen confessed that, “Every other year gives me a chance to forget that it really is a lot of work to do that.”

Meanwhile the garden will continue to inspire, sooth and delight. The Allens have donated garden tours to clubs and schools; they have hosted weddings and wedding parties, and generously share clippings with their church and friends, as well as entering individual roses in contests, which they have also won trophies for.

So what advice do the award-winning rose growers have for budding gardeners? “People say that roses are really hard to grow,” Karen said, “I do it because I like it, people who like to ski spend a lot of time doing that, but I garden.” However, she pointed out “there are a lot of easy care roses that give you a lot of bang for the buck and are not particularly hard to grow.” Plus, you have many chances to bring them around. A rose will bloom three to four times per season, which starts in late May or early June (or late June as in this year) and ends in November. Allen pointed out that they do need plenty of sunshine, six to eight hours a day, and a bush that may not thrive in one area of the garden may do better somewhere else.

Asked about her favorite rose, Allen demurred, “That is really hard (question), at different times I may like a rose and think they are amazing,” such as the Karen Blixen white rose that won her the second best rose in the Portland Rose Society's spring show held this year in early June at the Lloyd Center. “I really like them all for different reasons, it is hard to have a favorite, there are some that are real excellent roses but all of them have their own charm.”

A rose is a rose is a rose, but a collection of roses, climbing on trellises or bordering the road, creates an environment of beauty and peace, perhaps what Frank L. Beach sought to preserve on the streets of Portland, which Rosarians and the Allens will continue to encourage us all to stop, look and smell the roses.
Memo Calendar | Memo Pad | Business Memos | Loaves & Fishes | Letters | About the MEMO
MEMO Advertising | MEMO Archives | MEMO Web Neighbors | MEMO Staff | Home