Each month we organize two ‘Dirt Days’ for those who would like to volunteer in the care of the rose collection. Dirt Days take place at the current site of the collection:
3003 Pleasant Hill Rd.
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Dirt Days for 2017—they’re here!
Below is the schedule of our volunteer days in the garden in Sebastopol. We call these ‘Dirt Days’ and they run the gamut from weeding to potting and mulching. Dirt Days begin at 10 am, we work until about 1 pm then break for lunch. Some brave souls continue in the afternoon.
On Saturday, May 20, beginning at 9 am we are joined by members of the Bay Area Heritage Roses Group to pick and label flowers from the collection for the rose display at the Celebration of Old Roses in El Cerrito, the following day, Sunday, May 21st. The 20th of May will be the best day for you to come for a light day of work and a chance to enjoy the roses and see our progress over the past year! Please do join us!
-Gregg Lowery, Curator
|March 11, Saturday||March 26, Sunday||April 9, Sunday|
|April 22, Saturday||May 7, Sunday||May 20, Sat—Flower picking!|
|June 10, Saturday||June 25, Sunday||July 9, Sunday|
|July 22, Saturday||August 12, Saturday||August 27, Sunday|
|September 10, Sunday||September 23, Saturday||October 7, Saturday|
|October 22, Sunday||November 4, Saturday||November 19, Sunday|
Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Paula Larkin Hutton, if you plan to attend. We do best when we know how many will be on hand.
On two days we will share a potluck lunch, to be announced on our website in January. Other Dirt Days, please bring your lunch, weeding and pruning tools. We begin at 10 am and break for lunch in the garden at 1 pm. Our new volunteer coordinator, Paula Larkin-Hutton, will keep you informed of the work we will be focused on and any changes to the dates this year. She will send out reminders of our dates and provide the curator with a head count of volunteers to the curator.
What we accomplished in 2017
Dirt Days continued this year two times each month, alternating between Saturdays and Sundays. These were attended by roughly 125 volunteers and a total of about 375 hours of work. We also had a continuing commitment from two volunteers, Darrell Schramm and Sue Bunte whose regular weekly volunteering added another 350 hours of work on the collection and the garden. The curator’s volunteer hours this year totaled approximately 520. That grand total of 1245 donated hours would have worked out to $18675.00 in paid labor.
The combined work of these volunteer hours focused this year on the following tasks.
Garden Weeding and Mulching
Plants from our 2015 propagation effort, intended both as backup plants of at-risk varieties, and as fundraising sales plants, were sized up from band pots to gallon pots. Most of this work was done by Sue Bunte with help from Darrell Schramm. From March through July Dirt Days were devoted to weeding and mulching of sections of the Oak Garden which houses Teas, Chinas, HPs, Bourbons and old Polyanthas. Roughly half of this garden was completed, and work was done to clean new weeds emerging after the initial work. Mulching included special manure mulching at each rose base, and cardboard mulching over the entire bed before the top-covering with compost. Still to do on these beds is a more weed-suppressive mulch of wood chips to hold the weeds at bay for 12 to 18 months.
Pot Weeding, Fertilizing and Mulching
A few Dirt Days were devoted to liberating roses in containers that were choked (again) with weeds. Very thorough cleanup was effected, including the removal of some soil and partial repotting. About 600 to 800 plants were taken through this process and re-weeding of new weed seedlings accomplished as well.
Sizing up Roses in Containers
Our later Dirt Days in the year turned to the potting up of about 350 roses from gallon pots to five gallon. Assistance with this project came from some of our paid labor hours put to preparing the nursery site for these plants; leveling the soil, compacting and covering with landscape fabric, as well as with some of the re-weeding done
Duplicating the Collection as a Means of Preserving the Roses
Much effort was channeled into duplicating parts of the collection to get rare varieties into commerce. Cuttings went to several sources both commercial and community based, and more than 500 varieties were sent out through this work. Foremost has been the duplication being done by William Smith of Connecticut who is working on developing an old rose nursery in the Northeastern US, based on old varieties that are winter hardy for the region. Smith has also taken numerous cuttings to propagate varieties that are borderline survivors in the TFoVR collection, in order to send us backup plants. He has moreover committed to propagating varieties for other gardens that we hope will maintain copies of portions of the rose collection. A good portion of the curator’s volunteer hours were put to these duplication projects. Smith’s success rate with old European roses was poor, though he succeeded in duplicating about half of our HPs Bourbons and Portlands. I expect to continue working with him in the coming year, but will devote considerable fewer hours to the work, relying instead on him and his partners to pony up the hours of collecting cuttings and preparing them for transport.
About our Dirt Days with the Roses
Over 10 years ago a small group of friends started helping with maintenance in Gregg Lowery’s and Phillip Robinson’s old rose collection in Sebastopol. “Dirt Days” have become a regularly attended tradition. There are now about 35 volunteers who have actively participated in these work days at The Friends of Vintage Roses’ collection. These are held monthly from late winter to late fall, and they have made a significant difference in keeping the rose collection from disappearing. Roses have been planted, both in the ground and in pots. Beds have been weeded, mulched and inventoried. In the process of this labor of love, friendship flourishes and camaraderie makes the hard work great fun. After about three hours of work, the group shares a potluck lunch, and talk about the roses, about gardening and about the world of old roses.
The “Dirt Days” volunteers have been a valuable resource for the maintenance of this collection and for furthering the interests of The Friends of Vintage Roses. If you are interested in joining our group of enthusiastic volunteers please send an email to the volunteer coordinator, Carolyn Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are just a few comments about our volunteer work days in the garden, our ‘Dirt Days’ as Luanne Wilson nicknamed them:
“Although I’ve only attended a couple of Dirt Days so far, I was made to feel welcome at once. It feels good to work on the noble enterprise of preserving these heritage roses, the participants are fascinating, and the potluck is always delectable.”
“I’ll never forget the first time I met the collection and the garden that holds it. It must have been 1999. It was a warm May day, peak bloom. A beautiful romantic aria was playing. Suddenly I was in the midst of roses many of which I only really knew by name. The colors scents and sights of these beauties were almost too much for me. I actually became dizzy and had to sit down for a while before I could take it all in. It struck me then how very important to the world this collection was. Later as I became more familiar with the roses and the people who had brought them together and cared for them I knew that I wanted to do all I could to help keep such a wonder alive. I was there at the beginning of Dirt Days. Michael and I couldn’t make it to the day that Luanne and Carol were organizing so we came a few days earlier and spent the day weeding. After we were joined by a solid group of folks working together with a common cause. People have come and gone over the years. Friendships have grown. We’ve eaten an amazing amount of wonderful food at our potlucks. The roses survive and the garden evolves. I remain hopeful as all gardeners must. To me roses are a symbol of the promise of beauty. Together the Friends can fulfill that promise.
I’ve been going to these events for a long time. Never once have I failed to have a good time. One highlight I remember was in the first year, perhaps the first big dirt day. I remember we got a humorous email from Jon Dodson sent to the group for the occasion. Life goes on, things change. This is one of the things I enjoy that contributes to the rhythm of my days.