Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gather ye roses while ye may...

 Joan Franson alongside Grandma's Blessing rose                                                        All pictures but the last by Kevin Spray
A week ago a Memorial Service for Joan Franson was held in John Mitchell Hall at Denver Botanic Gardens: the hall was filled to overflowing, and a number of us spoke of Joan's many contributions to an array of communities: Denver Botanic Gardens, her beloved Shar pei dogs, Parliamentary procedures, the Federated and National Garden Clubs and her lifelong love of roses.

Speaking of roses, never have I seen roses bloom as beautifully in the autumn (it's November and our roses at the Gardens are spectacular still!). During the service I renewed my acquaintance with Kevin Spray, who's been helping Joan with her garden for many years. Kevin told me that Joan's rose garden was in full bloom, and I asked to visit: the following pictures give a few glimpses of her beloved garden in late autumn--taken last week. All of us who knew and loved Joan still find it hard that someone of such vitality could pass so quickly from us. I will end this blog with Herrick's classic poem which speaks to more than just youth..

The Franson rose garden October 28, 2014
Part of Joan's rose garden: the large shrub roses are mostly east of the house, but these grown more for their flowers are nestled in a protected spot just south of the house.

Another view...

I was especially charmed with this rose--with flowers in various shades of buff pink...I didn't find a label: where's Joan we we need her?

Another view of that rose...

Enormous Wasatch Maple (Acer grandidentatum) at the Franson's October 28, 2014
I was a week or two late to see the Fransons' magnificent Utah Maple in fall color: there are quite a few of these around town, but none I think quite as big or beautiful as this specimen. Joan was inordinately proud of it, and many years I'd make the pilgrimage to see its gorgeous pink and orange fall color. How I regret I missed it this year!
Kevin Spray with Acer grandidentatum at the Franson's
Kevin, the gardener and photographer who's provided all these pictures (although I did take this one on his I-phone!). He has had a special relationship with the Fransons, and I know that the wonderful work he did made Joan very happy in recent years, as he brought the garden up to the level that she'd hoped for. Her ankle and knee injuries in recent years made gardening an impossible task by herself. But she found herself a wonderful partner to help.

Apricot in fall color (left), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Abies concolor at the Franson's
I love the woody backdrop to the rose garden towards the east: the Apricot provided a wonderful splash of color in latest October. I envy the wonderful silver fir (on the right). Joan loved trees almost as much as roses!

Joan was president of the Associates in 1980 when I was hired: the Associates actually paid my salary for several years (so she always said she was my first boss). I was touched to see this plaque and realize that it represented 50 years of devoted service not only to our senior Volunteer organization, but to Denver Botanic Gardens as a whole: that's dedication.

Matt Douglas (left) Scott Scogerboe (upper center), Joan Franson (lower center) and myself                      Jeanine Spellman

 You never know from day to day when the last time you'll see a friend or relative. I never dreamed when Jeanine Spellman took this picture less than three months ago that it would be the last picture I'd have of Joan and me, and one of my last times to visit with her. She has left us not just with that infectious smile, but with a wealth of memories and chuckles, and the gift of much guidance and knowledge. 


Another friend who knew Joan a long time said to me "You know, we had so much fun together, I never realized how much I learned from her, and how great a mentor she was". I don't think I've met many people who made so much of their time on earth and gathered untold rose buds. She passed out of this world with panache just as she passed her rich and varied life. We are the ones who must heed the poem's drift!

 Our condolences go out to her many close friends, and especially to Herb, her loving husband, who supported her in every way for so many decades. 


To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.


  1. Robin Lane Fox's "On Gardens" column in the Financial Times November 26-27 2016 is "On an upward slope" on the botanical garden Philodassiki near Athens on Mount Hymettus -- some of the plants he features can be grown here I believe but would you comment or give insights. Have you been there recently?

  2. I have never been to that garden: I wish I had! I'll see if I can find Robin's article and get back to you, Susan! Thanks.


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