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Roses lend cheer to Summerhaven residents

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Gerald Simons (at rear) plants a rose bush at Summerhaven with his grandchildren, Lauren and Eliot Simons, and the garden’s designer Peter Carpenter (Photograph supplied)
Summerhaven resident Berneice Scott with her friend, Peter Carpenter who designed a rose garden for the Smith’s residential care facility (Photograph supplied)
The rose garden at Summerhaven (Photograph supplied)
Summerhaven before the rose garden was planted last weekend (Photograph supplied)
Planting the rose garden at Summerhaven. Gerald Simons (standing right) is pictured with his wheelchair-bound cousin Berneice Scott along with staff members and friends and family members of residents of the Smith’s parish facility (Photograph supplied)
Peter Carpenter’s plan for the rose garden at Summerhaven (Photograph supplied)
An aerial view of the planting of the rose garden at Summerhaven (Photograph supplied)
Residents at Summerhaven regularly gather under a portico that faces the new rose garden at the Smith’s residential care facility (Photograph supplied)

The grounds of Summerhaven will soon look a lot brighter – thanks to a rose garden planted by a team of volunteers last weekend.

Leading the project was Gerald Simons, a frequent visitor to the Smith’s residential care facility where his cousin Berneice Scott lives, and a keen gardener since before the age of ten.

“The reason I thought that the garden should be replanted was that the area in front of the main entrance, under the portico, is a gathering place at Summerhaven,” he said. “I visit regularly and I often see residents outside talking – it’s the equivalent of a water cooler in an office.

“About a year ago I thought, instead of looking out on the remnants of a garden that is somewhat overgrown at times, it’d be nice if it could be beautified by having roses planted there. October/November is about the best time to plant roses but that would have been a rush, so I waited.”

In the meantime he turned to Bermuda Rose Society member Peter Carpenter, a family friend who he knew had designed the rose garden at Agape House and many other private ones.

“I know Berneice very well,” Mr Carpenter said. “We’ve been friends for years and I have visited her frequently at Summerhaven. Given my friendship with [Mr Simons], my good friendship with his cousin Berneice and also my interest in encouraging the awareness and enjoyment of garden roses in Bermuda, I was delighted to help.”

Uncertain how much time staff at the residential facility would be able to dedicate to the garden’s care, he came up with a low-maintenance design. For fun, he built it around two appropriately named Mystery Roses which he alternated in a circle: Smith’s Parish and Red Smith’s Parish. With them he included “the most beloved of all Bermuda roses” – Agrippina.

“The actual rose garden is in the shape of a horseshoe with an Agrippina at each end of the horseshoe and one in the centre of the curve,” Mr Carpenter explained. “And between those Agrippinas there are alternating Smith’s Parish and Red Smith’s Parish.”

The bushes were donated by Clare Russell, president of the Bermuda Rose Society. According to Mr Carpenter, the first blooms might appear within a week.

Mr Simons called on his sons, Duncan and Andrew, to help him clear weeds and prepare the beds and soil for last weekend’s planting.

“I have a complete set of gardening tools and equipment and my boys are the same way so it wasn’t a big deal for us,” he said, explaining that he’s been an enthusiastic gardener since around the age of seven while a student at Purvis Primary School.

“I remember being eager to get home to my garden to weed my carrots and plant my string beans. Gardening is what I do.”

A past president of the Bermuda National Trust, Mr Simons was also responsible for the Department of Parks while environment minister for the United Bermuda Party.

“So I was often around people who had an interest in and a love of gardens and trees and planting,” he said. “And on a personal level I do my own gardening [at home]. I enjoy it. It is very therapeutic.”

He believes it’s in his genes. His great grandfather, Joseph Hilgrove Simons, was “a major farmer in Warwick”; his late aunt used to tell stories of how she tied up bunches of parsley which her father would then take into Hamilton to be shipped to New York and sold to restaurateurs and hoteliers.

“Our connections to the soil go way back,” he said. “Just about all the people in the Simons family understand gardening and planting.”

Roughly 30 people gathered at Summerhaven last weekend for the official planting of the garden.

It was a great day for the residents, said Colette Simmons, the facility’s executive director.

“They got to be a part of the planting and to view the project. It beautifies their home and they get to see it grow and flourish.”

Mr Carpenter planted the first of nine rose bushes and gave a demonstration on how to do so correctly; Ms Simmons and her staff, and relatives of Summerhaven residents planted the remainder.

“The residents are just about all wheelchair-bound so their friends and relatives planted them for them,” Mr Simons said. “The residents all seemed pleased and very excited by the prospect of a new garden.

“If you think about it, they spend 90, 95 per cent of their time at Summerhaven [although] they occasionally go off on their motorised vehicles to John Smith’s Bay or to the store around the corner at Devil’s Hole. They have a very limited physical range so anything that beautifies their environment, I think, is welcomed.”

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Published November 05, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 04, 2020 at 1:40 pm)

Roses lend cheer to Summerhaven residents

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