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Growing flowers takes patience, says rose lover Susan

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Susan Conyers in her garden in Paget (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Susan Conyers says the secret to propagating roses is patience – a lot of patience.

Her garden sits at the top of Berwyn Hill in Paget where her roses are sometimes pummelled by wind and fried by the sun.

“If you propagate ten roses and save two, that’s good,” the 69-year-old said. “So I spend a lot of time propagating and replacing. You’re always going to lose some.”

Her husband Hugh got her interested.

“Someone told him he needed to slow down, and stop and smell the roses,” she said. “So he took that literally and went out and bought a rose bush.”

It fell to her to take care of it. Today her garden bursts with all kinds of flowers, plants and palms; orange cosmos are everywhere.

“That just takes over,” said Mrs Conyers, who sells her roses and teaches workshops for the Bermuda Rose Society and the Garden Club of Bermuda.

“It puts off a lot of seeds. I have given so many away to Garden Club members.”

She was born in Kent, England and came to Bermuda as a toddler with her parents, Alfred and Joan Dolding, and her brother Michael. Her sister, Karen Warren, was born here.

“My father came out to work for the Bermuda Electric Light Company as a cable jointer,” Mrs Conyers said.

Her father died when she was 14 but her mother, who was a teacher, “had no interest in going back to England, so we stayed”.

At 17 she went to the UK to study beauty therapy at the London College of Fashion. When she graduated she returned to Bermuda and worked for Perfume Distributors Ltd.

One of Susan Conyers’ roses (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

In the late 1970s she married a man from Switzerland who was working in hospitality here.

For 13 years they lived just outside Zurich, where Mrs Conyers worked for Estée Lauder and Max Factor.

The marriage broke up but she stayed in Switzerland until she realised she was homesick.

“My heart was always in Bermuda,” she said. “I missed the ocean. The mountains just did not do the same thing for me. I returned home in 1990.”

Two years later she bumped into Hugh Conyers, who had taken her job when she had left for Switzerland years before. They hit it off.

“I was 38 or 39,” she said. “It just clicked. If we had met before I went to Switzerland it probably would not have worked.”

They married in 1993 and moved into a home owned by the Conyers family. Suddenly there was space for a garden.

“I had never done much gardening before,” she said. “When I lived in Switzerland I had a patio. We were required to have flowers in window boxes, but that was about it.

“This was an open canvas. I spent the first five years planting things, and then the next five years moving them, because they were in the wrong place. I did not know what I was doing when I planted them.”

She joined the Garden Club of Bermuda in 2004, and took a floral art/flower arranging course the following year. Her background as a beauty therapist helped.

“It was a similar thing,” she said. “I could create things. I did not have the problem with colour coordination. I knew what I was doing.”

She took further courses with the Garden Club to become a judge for floral art competitions.

“Jean Motyer was a very big gardener and flower arranger,” she said. “She was worried that the Garden Club did not have enough floral art judges. So, for two years, we did a lot of courses.”

Susan Conyers in her garden in Paget (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Competitive floral art has strict rules and regulations and competitors must follow the principles and elements of design. The Bermuda Judges Exam is sanctioned by the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies in London, England.

“Out of eight people who took the exam with me, four of us got our judging certificates,” said Mrs Conyers, who admits that she often lays awake at night planning her next floral piece.

She has been all over the world – as both a floral art exhibitor and judge – at events which see hundreds of thousands of attendees each year such as Toronto’s Canada Blooms, and the Philadelphia Flower Show in Pennsylvania.

In April 2021 the Garden Club released four commemorative stamps to celebrate its 100th anniversary. A photo of one of Mrs Conyers’ designs, a purse made from croton and geranium leaves and orchids, was featured on the $1.35 stamp.

“That was kind of cool,” she said. “I first made it during a crafts afternoon at the Garden Club. Then later they asked me to make it again.”

When she is not gardening, she and her husband love to entertain.

“We like to have our family and friends around,” she said. “We love to cook. You name it and I will try it.”

Mrs Conyers’s roses will be on sale with plants, crafts and other roses at Carter House in St David’s on April 30 from 11am to 3pm.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published February 23, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated February 24, 2022 at 8:02 am)

Growing flowers takes patience, says rose lover Susan

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