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Flowery Branch woman's flower beds full of roses
Pam Keene grows a variety of her favorite plant
Pam Keene identifies the different roses in her garden near the side of her home next to her garage Tuesday in Flowery Branch. Keene has a variety of roses, including the 9/11 rose, the Abraham Lincoln, the Dolly Parton and the Elizabeth Taylor. - photo by J.K. Devine

When one hears the names Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Taylor or Dolly Parton, one may first think of the legendary people. For Pam Keene, however, her mind goes to her garden.

The Flowery Branch resident has been cultivating hybrid tea roses named after people and places since her youth. In her garden she has Lincoln, Taylor and Parton roses in her flower beds.

“Hybrid teas all have names,” Keene said. “I have two or three dozen different kinds. I tend to go for the most fragrant roses.”

When Keene moved to Georgia and bought her first house, she knew a garden with large rose beds would be one of the first things she added to make the house a home.

“I grew up with roses,” Keene said. “My mother’s name is Rosa, and she taught me my love of gardening. She had roses when I was in junior high and high school.”

Growing up, she admits she wasn’t always fond of gardening because she and her sister had to pull weeds from the beds.

But Keene also got her hands dirty in her neighbor’s and her mother’s gardens. Before long, Keene knew she wanted to pick up the hobby.

“I really got into gardening when I first became a homeowner,” she said. “It’s a very relaxing hobby.”

Keene enjoys seeing the fruits of her labor, some literally with a vegetable garden, others figuratively when coworkers stop by her desk to admire her cut roses from her yard.

While some have recognizable names, others have descriptive names. Keene aims to increase the variety each year.

“I have one called ‘voluptuous,’ and another is ‘perfume delight,’” she said, pointing to them as she strolled through her gardens Tuesday evening. “One is called 9/11, and the petals open and are pointed on the ends. It has no fragrance as a memorial.”

In addition to the roses Keene loves, she has more than 60 azalea bushes and a large variety of other plants.

“I try to incorporate a lot of different textures,” she said of her garden. “Roses do great in the hot months, and each year we try to add new things and more perennials.”

Keene’s gardens and residence will be featured on the Hall County Master Gardeners’ Garden Walk next spring, so the Keene and her husband are spending the weekends pruning and planting to get it just right.

“With this property, we started working on the garden before we built the house,” she said.

The wooded area is prime for deer and other wildlife but works well for the Keenes. The layout allows the couple to have protective measures, such as an electric fence.

Hall County Master Gardener program director Wanda Cannon noted deer will eat any type of rose if they get hungry enough, so keeping them away is key.

“The electric fence is one of the best ways because once they get shocked, they will likely not go back near that area again,” Cannon said.

In addition to keeping the plants protected, Keene and Cannon agreed keeping them watered in the hot climate is essential to the plants’ success.

“We have an irrigation system to keep them watered,” Keene said. “There is a cistern that our gutters drain into that we also use to water.”

Roses in particular have to be sprayed for disease on a regular basis, but they are Keene’s favorite part of the garden and grow well in the climate.

“We live in a really great zone for them,” Cannon said. “Sometimes the soil does have to be amended since we have red clay, especially for hybrids or heirlooms.”

Although Keene loves her roses since they remind her of home, she does wish some other plants would grow in the Georgia climate.

“I grew up in an orange grove, so I would love to be able to have citrus trees,” she said. “It’s just not the same as growing a Meyer lemon in a pot.”

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