A fes­ti­val by any other name

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Media’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc The trip is be­ing mapped at bit.ly/10Days10Fes­ti­vals.

OK, I was late for the An­napo­lis Royal Rose Fes­ti­val. But hear me out: a lot of fes­ti­vals are jammed into week­ends.

When there are car shows in­volved, the peo­ple will drive away af­ter­wards. Mu­sic fes­ti­vals? The bands and au­di­ences go home.

But I fig­ured the roses weren’t go­ing any­where — and, as it turned out, the roses wound up be­ing late for the fes­ti­val, too.

The fes­ti­val wrapped up on a re­cent Sun­day with more than 200 peo­ple at the Wine and Rose event, walk­ing the gravel paths and grass verges, mar­vel­ling at the thou­sands of bright blos­soms, but chances are,

I saw a bet­ter flo­ral dis­play Tues­day. And Tues­day was a welcome re­lief for oth­ers, too. The fes­ti­val? “It’s a lot of pres­sure,” says Anita Dob­son, the gar­den’s rosar­ian. (I bet you didn’t even know “rosar­ian” was a word — I didn’t.) “Ev­ery­thing was two weeks be­hind.”

That’s the prob­lem with depend­ing on na­ture; just ask the peo­ple be­hind the Bri­gus Blue­berry Fes­ti­val.

Dob­son’s re­spon­si­ble for the over 1,000 rose plants at the gar­den, all of which are sup­posed to be ready for the cru­cial first week of July.

“There are 282 va­ri­eties this year — I only know it be­cause I counted.” She pauses. “I take that back, be­cause we lost two minia­tures. So, 280.”

And it’s a job that doesn’t stop. Af­ter the fes­ti­val, there’s dead­head­ing spent flow­ers, prun­ing, feed­ing, bed work.

“I start breath­ing again in Septem­ber. It’s a non-stop thing.”

And that’s not count­ing the pests she has to deal with.

“There’s many of them. The most prob­lems were with the deer; of all of them — two, four, six and eight­legged crea­tures — they were the worst. We tried ev­ery­thing.”

Fi­nally, fenc­ing the gar­dens solved the prob­lem.

Dob­son’s been work­ing at the gar­dens for 35 sea­sons. Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Karen Achen­bach has an equal amount of ex­pe­ri­ence at the gar­dens, but Dob­son’s the Rose Queen.

“She prunes them all,” Achen­bach says. “She has a love/hate re­la­tion­ship with the roses.”

Dob­son doesn’t show any hate, grub­bing new soil in around the plants. There are a lot of tricks to keep­ing the roses healthy. They are, she says, some­times nick­named “the rich man’s an­nual.”

She seems al­most at peace in the gar­den. It’s quiet, and she’s me­thod­i­cal, sur­rounded by gor­geous roses and their sweet per­fume. Irony of ironies? Dob­son’s been work­ing with roses so long she doesn’t even smell them any­more.

“Ev­ery once and a while, my nose will kick in. When peo­ple ask ( for fra­grant roses), I just point them to the ones I re­mem­ber.”

Al­most all the roses have been in­tro­duced. If Dob­son had her way, she would have liked to see the area’s orig­i­nal va­ri­eties.

“If I could have been there, I would have liked to have been there when Cham­plain stepped off the boat, to see what roses he would have tripped over.” The ques­tion she’s asked the most? “Black spot is the main prob­lem.” It’s a rose fun­gus with few cures. “I’ve talked to peo­ple from all over the world, and what we have in com­mon is black spot.”

There are more mun­dane prob­lems, too.

“Did she tell you about the sch­muck?” Achen­bach asks.

That’s the al­most-an­nual oc­cur­rence when heavy July rains slap the bloom­ing roses to the ground. Dob­son and vol­un­teers shake the blos­soms dry and help the plants re­cover.

“It will come down all at once, 10 min­utes or so, and flat­ten them.”

Dob­son is keen to point out that much of the care is a group ef­fort, es­pe­cially the dead­head­ing, re­mov­ing the dy­ing rose blos­soms.

But she’s the one at the gar­den at six a.m.

Chances are, Dob­son will be back wor­ry­ing the roses into their July fes­ti­val per­for­mance — un­less one par­tic­u­lar thing hap­pens.

“We don’t have Ja­panese bee­tle,” Dob­son says.

She seems to shud­der, even in the July warmth. A rose gar­den scourge, in­tro­duced Ja­panese bee­tles have been found in Nova Sco­tia, but they haven’t found their hun­gry way to An­napo­lis Royal yet.

“When it comes here, I re­tire.”

I start breath­ing again in Septem­ber. It’s a non-stop thing.

—Anita Dob­son

RUS­SELL WANGER­SKY/TC MEDIA

La Nob­lesse Cen­tifo­lia, a rose dat­ing back to 1856.

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