Photo courtesy of Paul Saeger.
Hoover resident Paul Saeger recently became a Consulting Rosarian through the Deep South District of the American Rose Society.
Catholic as it sounds, the term “consulting rosarian” has nothing to do with catechism. In this case, it reflects the journey of one local lover of roses from his home in Hoover all the way to Savannah, Georgia, where he learned to hone his craft and receive the coveted distinction.
Long before receiving the honor, though, Paul Saeger was a recreational gardener who had happened into rose gardening by way of his father-in-law.
“I started growing roses when our older son was born,” Saeger said. “We were living in Nashville at the time, and to paraphrase a rather famous line from the movie ‘Gone With the Wind’, we didn’t know nuthin’ about carin’ for a baby.”
To support the new parents, Saeger’s in-laws came to Nashville to help out.
“My wife and mother-in-law were busy with the baby and my father-in-law was going nuts with nothing to do, so he dug me a rose bed,” he said.
The following spring, Saeger had planted his first two rose bushes, and he was hooked.
“That was in 1962 and I’ve been growing roses ever since,” Saeger said.
In retirement, Saeger has been able to take his passion for rose gardening and turn it into a skilled art.
In 2013, he became a Master Gardener through the Shelby County Extension Office, a division of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Most recently, he became a Consulting Rosarian through the Deep South District of the American Rose Society. The distinction was hard earned, requiring Saeger to be a member of the local rose society (the Birmingham Rose Society) for three consecutive years while actively growing a number of roses and satisfying application requirements, plus three letters of recommendation from active Consulting Rosarians.
Saeger then attended the district Consulting Rosarian School, which was held in Savannah at the January meeting of the Deep South District of the American Rose Society.
One four-hour, 50-question multiple choice test later, spanning a variety of subjects including fertilization, chemical safety, major insects and diseases, Saeger exceeded the 75 or higher scoring requirement to earn his certification.
All the while, Saeger has maintained and expanded a residential rose garden resplendent with more than 100 shrubs, including hybrid teas, floribundas, miniatures, minifloras, polyanthas and David Austin shrubs.
“When we moved into our home 17 years ago, I had raised rose beds built and I populated those beds the following spring,” Saeger said. “Over time, I added an additional bed and began growing roses in large pots. Recently I’ve gotten interested in Old Garden Roses and have added two cultivars of Bourbon, one China and one Tea rose.”
For those curious but intimidated about the prospect of rose gardening, what Saeger calls “the casual rose grower,” his advice is to do your homework and keep an open mind.
“I think too many people are intimidated by growing roses,” he said. “They see them as hard to grow and demanding of too much time and effort. As a result, if they try to grow roses at all, they grow Knockouts.
While Knockouts have their place, people are missing a lot by not growing other types as well. Roses don’t have to be that demanding. It just takes the right rose in the right place with the right maintenance routine.”
Saeger is quick to acknowledge that growing roses at the scale he grows them is not for everyone. Nevertheless, he encourages those who are interested to follow their curiosity.
“To have a rose garden the size that I have obviously takes work,” he said. “But no one forced me to have a garden this size. I do it because I enjoy growing roses. I enjoy not only the pleasure that I get from them but the pleasure that other people get from them as well. The important thing is to try. But if it becomes a job, it’s time to find something else to do.”