The Gift of a Rose

originally published February 2019

Written by Abigail Walker/photo courtesy of Hometown Magazine

Delta-native Jeanette Graham has always loved roses.

Her mother, Mabel Hester, grew hybrid tea roses in Benoit, Miss., and her grandmother, Mary Wilson, grew red roses in Dixon, Miss. So it was only natural that Graham would be a gardener herself.

“I’ve been a rosarian for 46 years,” says Graham. “It’s such a joy for me.”

Several years after her husband, Charles, passed away, Graham moved to Raymond, Miss., to be closer to her daughter, Lisa Rooks, and her grandchildren. She filled her land at Lake Mimosa with 114 hybrid tea rose bushes, the colors ranging from pink, yellow, red, and beyond.

In fact, Graham grew at least 1,500 different roses over the years. Every morning, she would go out early and spend at least two hours tending her garden.

She says she often had people spot the colorful bushes from the road and pull over to get a closer look. Graham also made a habit of taking freshly-cut roses to her neighbors.

“You would have thought it was a hundred dollars to them,” she says. “But the real gift was being able to visit with people.”

Graham eventually started taking pictures of her roses so everyone could view their beauty. She says the best time to photograph the flowers is early on an April morning. She also made sure to never photograph any roses that had been cut because she wanted to capture their natural splendor.

“Every rose I photographed was still on the vine,” she says.

One hot summer before she moved to Clinton, Graham says some deer jumped her fence and ate all of her beautiful roses. Although she was sad to see her garden destroyed, Graham was grateful that she had taken the time to photograph the flowers in their prime.

But Graham’s roses were not done spreading their joy. She decided to make the photos of her roses into cards to sell and give to others. She contacted Arrow Printers, who were happy to help her with the project.

Every flower that adorns the cards was photographed by Graham in her garden at Lake Mimosa, in “rich, Mississippi soil.” Each package, tied with a green ribbon, includes 12 cards with a diverse set of colorful roses, as well as a variety of lilies, pansies, magnolias, etc.

She also includes a piece of paper that explains the story behind her garden and the lovely roses that christen the cards: “I pray that the roses pictured here bring joy to you and the recipient of your special note of love, friendship, encouragement, or thanks. It is because of God’s love and His beauty that these photos and precious memories are shared with you.”

Though the garden is gone, Graham’s roses continue to bless her and others.

“Every time I look at them, they still give me a thrill,” she says, admiring a card with a pink bud. “And I never get tired of seeing people enjoy them.”

One year, she even turned her photos into a calendar, which she sold at Mistletoe Marketplace.

Graham often speaks to gardening societies and other organizations about the best way to grow roses. She also takes part in First Baptist Clinton’s floral ministry. From seed to card, Graham sees the roses as a “beautiful testimony of God’s love and grace.”

“He makes them so that their beauty makes the hard work worth it,” she says. “Every time I see them, I think, ‘I could never do that. God did that.’”

Graham’s rose cards are available for $10 at the Clinton Visitors Center, as well as Hardware for Her in Deville Plaza in Jackson.

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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