The early snowmelt has tricked daffodils and tulips into popping their shoots above ground, but the cold weather continues to keep the more heat-loving plants burrowed underground.
Volunteers are also popping back at St. Albert Botanic Park, clearing off dead leaves, trimming edges, raking dirt and tending to more than 370 fragrant roses catching the sun in a fenced-off greenhouse.
These stunning blooms make up one of the park’s major fundraisers, the traditional Mother’s Day Weekend Rose Sale. This year, the in-person sale takes place Saturday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the garden's patio and parking lot.
“We have a diverse offering, but they are unique to the region. The big stores tend to sell standard types. They don’t have this kind of selection. People that grow roses know we have a small collection and they are here early in the morning to get first pick,” said Richard Plain, St. Albert’s resident rose expert and a park volunteer.
Patricia Bell, the St. Albert Botanic Park's executive director, added, “We try to order ones that are good growers for our climate (Zone 3).”
More than 30 vibrant types of the perennial flowering cultivars now sit in the greenhouse. Although each plant carries different characteristics, they have one thing in common. They are all tokens of love.
One of the more popular is the buttery yellow Julia Child Floribunda Rose, a small bush that blooms in clusters or sprays. Another favourite is Sugar Moon, a creamy white rose wafting a strong citrusy fragrance.
New to the sale is Painted Porcelain Hybrid Tea Rose, with a yellow centre, white base and light pink outer petals. Another new hybrid tea rose is Perfume Factory, showcasing a purple lavender that lightens at the edges.
And then there’s the quirky bi-colour Ketchup and Mustard Floribunda Rose, boasting deep red petals with illuminating yellow reverses. A true stunner.
For anyone looking to enjoy a profusion of blooms, The Fairy is a dwarf shrub rose that produces abundant cascading clusters of small rosettes.
“They can produce up to 200 flowers in a season,” Bell said.
And as for the hardiness of the cherry red Winnipeg Parks Rose, “if it can bloom in Winnipeg, it can bloom anywhere,” chuckles Plain.
Bell looks forward to not only enjoying a brisk rose sale, but also a busy summer.
“Last year, the numbers increased. CBC did a story that we were one of six gardens to visit. A lot more people came than we normally have, and they appreciated the park. Of course, they didn’t realize we were there,” Bell said.
Although the volunteer-run park runs a tight budget, its 2021 plans range from buying Plexiglas screens and stanchions for the gift shop to purchasing more plastic chairs for weddings and additional signage for plants.
“People are always telling us we have to many signs, but we are a botanic park and we are here to educate people.”
Just this year, the park received a $16,000 donation from a generous benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous.
“It is for a pathway that will join the entrance of the west park to the pergola,” said Bell.
Construction for the pathway will start in 2022. For the remainder of 2021, the park will fundraise selling accent bricks for the pathway. A six-by-nine-inch brick runs at $300 and a nine-by-nine-inch brick is priced at $500.
“You can write whatever you want on it. Or you can put a paw-print on it. This non-traditional fundraiser will start online by the end of May.”
In addition to hosting an in-person rose sale on Saturday, May 8, roses will be sold on the online store and available Sunday, May 9, with the first pickups scheduled to begin Monday, May 10, at 11 a.m.
The gift shop also opens Thursday, May 6, and will be open daily to Labour Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on St. Albert Botanic Park events visit www.stalbertbotanicpark.com.