When Sandra and Roland Papineau say they admire the beauty of Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton and Marilyn Monroe, they aren’t engaged in idle celebrity talk.
The retired couple is describing their stunning roses, many of which are named after famous people, places and events.
Lucille Ball hybrid tea roses, the Paul McCartney Rose, Jubilee Celebration and South Africa: All are rose varieties blooming in the Papineau’s yard along the lakeshore in Bright’s Grove.
The Papineaus have 450 rose bushes in their garden, which Roses Canada describes as one of the largest rose collections in the country. The magazine featured one of their ‘South Africa’ blooms on the cover of its January edition.
Three hundred varieties of roses and another 2,500 perennials, annuals and shrubs occupy their entire property leading down to the beach.
In the summer, when the blooms are at their peak, visitors drop by to take it all in. Some know the couple but others are strangers who just can’t pass the incredible display of colour and fragrance without stopping.
“We get 10 or 12 people a day who come by when the roses are out,” says Roland. “We’ve also taken lots of tours through; local painters, church groups.”
Since 2013, he has kept a visitor guest book and it contains about 1,000 names, some from as far away as Germany, Peru and China.
“People in our neighbourhood know me as the
‘rose lady,’” said Sandra with a laugh. “We don’t want to hand out our address, but if people find us we’re happy to let them look.”
The Papineaus bought the property in 1977, built a house and planted their first rose bushes.
They raised two girls and both worked as educators with the Lambton Kent District School Board. When they retired 20 years ago, they estimate they had 70 rose bushes in the yard.
But a visit shortly after to the garden of Harry McGee, a renowned rose judge in Lambeth, inspired the couple to dramatically add to their own collection and build arbours and other features.
Soon they were spending six to seven hours a day in the yard, digging, planting and pruning roses.
“She knows them like her own children,” Roland says of his wife. “She is the planner and the researcher.
“If she wants mulch, I deliver it. It’s never a job. It’s something we do together.”
“He’s so sweet,” says Sandra. “Whenever I ask, he just digs the hole.”
For many years, the Papineaus entered their roses in local competitions and had a lot of winners. They remain active with the horticultural society but seldom compete these days.
They say they head out to the garden daily, not to win prizes, but to enjoy the flowers and the astounding results of their hard work.
“I just love roses,” says Sandra. “It brings great joy to me and it brings great joy to other people.
“We’ve been told by some people this is the most beautiful private garden they have been in.”
THE PAPINEAU GARDEN BY THE NUMBERS
450 rose bushes
300 rose varieties, including 127 hybrid tea roses and 43 climbers
About 2,500 annuals and perennials including:
300 tulip bulbs
400 large crocuses
And many more.