Opal Davis is the first lady of Brandon Wilde's first rose garden, a stop Saturday on the Augusta Rose Society's free rose-garden tour.
Mrs. Davis, 92, was instrumental in starting the garden and keeping it growing the first few years. A flower-show judge emeritus, she used her own money and equipment from her Keysville ranch to tend the garden, with the help of a few volunteers.
"Brandon Wilde had the rose garden laid out, the landscape people did, with the bricks," she said during a recent visit to the garden. "That's all that was here, the bricks. And Brandon Wilde decided to plant roses that year."
"Did you lobby for roses, and they finally agreed?" asked Chris Randall, Augusta Rose Society president.
"Yes," Mrs. Davis said. "There's nothing that is greater than a rose."
Brandon Wilde, a retirement community in Evans, bought the roses and had them planted, and president Rosie Messer asked Mrs. Davis to take over their care.
"In other words, they spent every penny on the roses," she said. "They had not budgeted anything for their care. And so it was so much to do. We did not have a water faucet over here. They hadn't put that in. Anyway, we did not lose a single rose as long as I had it."
Mrs. Davis yielded the responsibility to Brandon Wilde resident Ford Fuller after four years when she no longer felt up to the job.
Other rose-garden committee members were residents Mary Humrich, Tom Walker, Clo Wiltse and Eleanor Hanson, in addition to resident Alex Windsor, chairman of the Augusta Rose Society in 1963.
The tour allows members to share their gardens, said society member Sandy Randall. "We all grow beautiful roses, and a garden is meant to be shared," Mrs. Randall said. "We want to let people know that roses are not as difficult to grow as some people think, that we can all grow roses. They don't have to be show roses. There are garden roses. There's all types of roses."
People can begin the tour at any of the gardens.
"If they live in Hephzibah, they can start there," she said. "If they live in North Augusta, they can start there. It's just a time to have a lot of fun, meet a lot of folks and let people tour the gardens."
IN THE GARDEN
WHAT: Augusta Rose Society's Annual Rose Garden Tour
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
TOUR STOPS: The rose gardens at Brandon Wilde, 4275 Owens Road, Evans; and the gardens of Charlotte and Paul Blankenship, 1816 Warren Court, North Augusta; Kathy and Warren Hylton, 1402 Magnolia Drive, Augusta; Carla and Ted Oellerich, 4935 Peach Orchard Road, Hephzibah; and Lauretta Eshleman, 2576 Georgia Highway 88, Hephzibah.
INFORMATION: The Augusta Rose Society meets at 7:30 p.m. third Tuesdays in the Sister Mary Louise Conference Room at St. Joseph's Hospital on Wrightsboro Road. The program spotlights a specific aspect of rose care and horticulture. Consulting rosarians are always present to answer questions. Call (803) 649-7748.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.