(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON - Barbara Myres believes when God gives you a talent you should put it to good use.
"I think different people have different gifts given to them by God and growing roses is a desire I always had, it was already built in. It's just what makes me, me. Some people love to plant trees, you don't know why, you just have it in you. I'm passionate about my roses, I just fall in love with them, my heart melts for them. There is no other flower I would give this much care or spend this much time with."
Not only has she found solace in her flair for growing roses but the community has reaped the benefits as well. She has inspired her sister, friends and neighbors to create rose gardens. Also, her garden has been the background for professional photographs and the subject of paintings by Myres, a member of the local art guild, and her artistic friends.
"As a matter of fact, two of my friends came over and painted my garden in watercolors and they both won ribbons at a judged show," Myres noted with pride.
Her love for roses has even sparked her father's interest. James Cummins uses his talent for building things by helping Myres create arches and trellises which make her garden all the more special.
And there are others taking notice. Most recently, she won the St. Louis Post Dispatch Great Garden Contest.
Knowing the kind of green-thumbed talent she was up against she still finds it difficult to believe she won third place in the "Best Overall Design" category, especially since entering the June contest was a last minute decision.
"I was making breakfast and my husband had the lifestyles of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on the table and it caught my eye," she recalled. "I had entered a contest only once before so it's not a normal thing for me to do but I just kept glancing over there at it. I was inspired by it and thought I'd give it a try.
"If it was a small contest I could maybe fathom winning, but it's the whole St. Louis area. I still have to pinch myself. People have been so nice, those I don't even know have called me on the phone just to say congratulations.
"I feel so humbled and in disbelief because I've seen prettier gardens than mine. I think what made my garden is in the springtime I have old-fashioned climbers that just bloom one time and that bloom is magnificent, it puts lots of color in the garden. That's what really helped me."
Myres' yard is filled with vivid color, featuring over 100 varieties of roses, everything from Hybrid Tea roses to Shrub roses to Florabunda roses. Her favorites are those that burst with reds and pinks.
Although she has been growing roses since 1993, she admits there was a point when she was ready to call it quits. Too much money, energy and time was being put into her hobby, she told herself. That is, until she realized her talent was a gift that wasn't hers to give up.
"To think I almost gave up after five years..." said Myres, who insists she is still learning about roses. "It's been a long, long learning experience. It's still not like I'm perfect. I don't want to sound like I am boasting, like I know everything about roses, because I don't. In fact, some of my roses have been kind of small this year and I've already taken a shovel to them and dug them out. Once you learn a little bit about roses it's not like they're going to be perfect all the time," she quipped. "I don't want to perceive that I know what I'm doing, but I know more of what I'm doing than I did before."
She said a common mistake people make when caring for roses is not keeping them watered. Also, they need to be cut back in the spring which gives them more energy, causing them to burst with new, larger leaves and flowers.
If rose stems are smaller than a pencil, she advises cutting them off to prevent small flowers from forming and from causing the plant to use all its energy on thin stems that do very little.
And roses need a great deal of sun, at least four to six hours.
Granted, they require a lot of care. She's in the yard working with her roses every day. But, she said with assurance, it's time well spent.
"It's where I have some time for my best thoughts, my best inspirations. It makes me happy," she said.
Although Myres searches for a new rose variety every year to add to her collection, she didn't this year. There's simply no room left. But when she finds a space - and she will - she'll have a lot of fun. For winning the contest, Myres received $250 dollars worth of gift certificates. She also was given a year's pass to St. Louis' Botanical Gardens, a place she frequents.
A member of the Rose Society of Greater St. Louis, the Sikeston resident isn't about to let the new-found notoriety go to her head. But, she confessed the recognition is kind of nice.
"Winning this contest is one of the highlights of my whole life," said Myres. "I spend a lot of time in my garden and work a lot in it so it's just so wonderful for other people to appreciate it as much as I do."
Myres said growing roses has made her a different person, a more patient, appreciative individual.
"It's enriched me as a person. I feel more connected with the earth and God. It's just my way of feeling more spiritual, feeling one with nature."