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Master gardener grows a tapestry of roses, literally

POSTED: September 4, 2014 7:59 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Master Gardener Lynn Kemper keeps busy during the winter months cross stitching large pieces of ancient European tapestries. Many of her pieces take years to complete.

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Lynn Kempler dreamed of roses.

She envisioned a cascade of blooms, tumbling down the terrace and sweetly framing the bride and groom. But the timing was wrong. Only the white roses were in season for the wedding day, which fell on Mother’s Day weekend.

“Then something wonderful happened,” Kempler said.

The day Kempler’s daughter, Joanna Cannon, walked down the garden’s wedding aisle, all of the roses — the pink, the yellow, the fuschia — came alive and opened their petals in colorful celebration of the commitment ceremony.

“It was simply beautiful,” Kempler said.

Kempler can only think of one reason that the flowers at her retreat, Wildwood Farm would blossom so brilliantly before their time.

“When I was building the rose garden, my mother was in our care in hospice, and I had her pick out a lot of the roses for me to plant,” she said.

It was as if her mother, Annette, was looking down and making the day that much more glorious.

“It’s never happened again,” Kempler said.

Worth the wait

The Master Gardener and needlepoint enthusiast revs the golf cart’s engine before putting it in drive and zipping around her 100-acre farm. The property — packed with trees, flowers, vegetables and fruits — lives up to its community’s name, Flowery Branch. Hardly a scene goes by without something alive and thriving catching the viewer’s eye. Hiking trails meander through the wildlife sanctuary, and rock croppings jut toward the sky, some serving as waterfall towers for the creek that snakes around the plot’s perimeter.

This is how it’s meant to be.

“I love watching things come alive,” Kempler said. “We wanted to have a place that had that feeling where you can just unclench your jaw at the end of the workday.”

She and her husband, Gary, who recently retired from heading the emergency room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, have lived at the farm for just more than two decades, and it’s been a life grown in the dirt.

“If done right, gardening is a lot of hard work,” she said. “From spring to fall, you have to be out, working. If you miss a day in the garden, something always happens.”

But the retired paramedic and crisis counselor says she knows her efforts produce results.

“People ask about my roses, ‘Do they take a lot of work?’ She said. “I tell them, ‘Just like a beautiful woman, roses take time and effort to show off their beautiful faces. And they are well worth the wait.’

Wait, she has.

After years of wanting to become a gardener, Kempler finally took the step in 2010.

“I had been wanting to do it for quite a few years, but every time I saw the textbook, I got intimidated,” she said.

Then, a Master Gardener friend let her in on a secret: “She told me, ‘They want you to pass,” Kempler said.

From there on out, Kempler found herself hooked.

“What a great group of people,” she said. “Master Gardeners are kind, caring people that work together for the benefit of this community with the wonderful side effect of meeting lifetime friends with like minds.

Kempler said one of her favorite parts of being a Master Gardener is taking part in the Hall County Master Gardeners Fall Garden Expo, which takes place Sept. 26-27 this year.

“It’s just such a good time,” she said.

Medieval connection

Kempler now dreams of more than just roses. While she spends her summer and fall days out in the gardens — weeding, planting, nursing seedlings to maturity — she spends her winter months wrapped up on the couch with a woolen tapestry and her large white Pyrenees, Titan, dreaming of France.

Several years ago, Kempler added a common hobby — needlepoint — to her gardening activities. But she added her own spin to it. Instead of working plain patterns, she decided to create replicas of the six famous tapestries in the Lady and the Unicorn series.

The original tapestries were found in 1841 in a French chateau and grew world famous through their enormous display at the Cluny Museum in Paris, also known as the National Museum of Medieval Arts. All are scenes portraying one of the senses. Kempler found one of the needlepoint charts created by the Royal Paris company. The design firm stopped crafting the patterns in the 1950s, and original patterns from that era are rare.

Now Kempler makes a hobby of collecting and completing the patterns. She has already completed three of the six tapestries — Hearing, Desire and Sight. She recently acquired Smell, which she snagged on eBay, and she continues her search for the last two — Touch and Taste.

She proudly frames her finished work, as each tapestry takes anywhere from three to five years to complete.

“That’s how I spend my winter months,” Kempler said. “It’s a connection to the 15th century. And it makes all those hours of TV watching worthwhile, because I have something to show for it.”

Kempler and her husband plan on visiting Paris next year to see the original tapestries in person.

“I just know I’m going to be awe-struck,” she said.

Two talents

When asked which of her hobbies serves as her favorite, Kempler describes them as each balancing out the other.

“It depends on the time of the year,” she said. “If it’s a cold, wintery night, and I have the opportunity to watch Masterpiece Theatre with a warm, woolen tapestry on me, there’s nothing better. But if it’s spring and my kitchen is full of seedlings to be planted, I want to be outside.”


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