Way back when, perhaps as far back as the late 1970s, I remember going to the fair with my grandma. And while my memories are a bit hazy, I seem to recall her taking me to see two things: her pickles and her roses.
While I’m not sure which made her more proud, I will never forget either. She made sweet and sour (or was it bread and butter?) pickles that were uniformly cut, filled the jar to the exact right spot and very green. I can picture that vivid green today, about 35 years later. The sweetness and the stain they left on the sandwich plate still hang in my senses. That green wasn’t a cucumber or pickle green, not even close. It wasn’t even grass green either, but a color that was so neon in hue that it never should have been classified as edible.
I don’t ever remember the color of the ribbons she received – I’m assuming the competition back then was greater than it is today – but I would bet that she proudly displayed them, at least for a couple months. Pickles at the county fair – it doesn’t get much more nostalgic than that.
Until you get to the roses. See, my grandpa was the gardener in the marriage. He planted the trees, pruned the ones that bore fruit (apple, cherry, apricot and peach), sheared the privet hedge, manicured the lawn and grew the vegetables. His yard was the pride of Forest Avenue, and many of my memories have him working in the garden at the bottom of the hill. But he didn’t touch the roses. They were grandma’s. They climbed up the side of the house and around the patio posts.
In retrospect, they may not have been planted in the best spots, as their thorns would snag a grandchild running by almost every time, leaving them bloodied and calling for mom. But they were hers – her connection to her husband, her moment in the yard. And she brought them to fair.
Again, I have no idea if they ever won “Best in Show” or “Horticultural Excellence.” I never saw a ribbon, a photo or a news clipping.
But four years ago, I visited my friend Ruthie, who, at the time, lived in the house that my grandparents built about 55 years earlier. And while the cherry and apricot trees had almost succumbed to old age, there grew grandma’s roses, right next to the patio.
Ruthie was kind enough to let me dig three of them up – one for my dad, one for my sister and one for me to plant in our yards.
I encourage all of the gardeners out there – grandmas and grandpas, novices and experts, kids and adults – to bring in their fruits, vegetables and flowers to the 2014 La Plata County Fair. We will accept edibles from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and flowers from 2 to 6 p.m. Aug. 6. All entries are eligible for small premiums, although if you truly wow the judges, you can win a pretty hefty gift card to a local nursery or flower shop.
New this year is the welcome addition of the Four Corners Rose Society’s annual rose show, now in its 40th year. The roses displayed come from some of the county’s finest gardens. It is a treat to have them as part of the Horticultural Section along with their perfumes, ornate color patterns and history – that same history that my grandma was part of.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.