A cottage in the woods with roses for me?

Once, I saved dish towels and aprons in a hope chest and fantasized about my future home. Nothing fancy. Instead, it was always a cottage adorned by fragrant, climbing roses.

Not very original I know . . . . How many girls who read Regency romances don’t dream of a rose-covered cottage and picket fence with two cats in the yard. Books have been written, and songs composed about such. So many that some girlish fantasies come with a heady aroma tinged in rosey hue. Mine did anyway.

Rosa 'Apple Jack' with our old, iron bell. This rose is outside our bedroom window, and when I open the doors, I can smell its sweet fragrance in spring. It only blooms once a year.

In Oklahoma, the land of prairie and sun, this dream of mine was not very practical, and my personal exterior displays a very practical girl usually clad in blue jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes. If you met me, you would wonder where the dreamy artist is, but my inner life is full of fanciful notions.

On an ill-fated vacation in Missouri when I was twenty-two, I saw a log cabin perched on the side of an Ozark mountain, and my heart leapt. I longed for a log house that felt a part of its surroundings. Yet, I still wanted it covered in roses. I pondered these dreams, which were very different from the life I was living in a mobile home with someone who didn’t share my fantasies. Therefore, I  didn’t discuss them, but, instead, held them like the precious pearls they were.

Back of the house with an unnamed climbing rose at right. I bought it on sale at a store, and it had no tag.

I got away from the person who sapped my hope and energy, but it took awhile. I am also stubborn, and sometimes, I want to bend things to my will. My first marriage was one of those things. I now understand with my whole heart, that I was sapping his strength too. You see, no one is all bad, or all good, but we are all entirely human.

Did you spend much of your 20s trying to figure out who you were? I did. I think many twenty-somethings do. Although I spent much of every day in various cubicles and towers downtown, in every place I called home, I had a bit of garden . . . , maybe only a small bed, a container, or even a sprig growing in a window, here and there. How could I know I was building for better things? I had no experience.

'Frontier Twirl' has such unusual coloration. It is the perfect foil for the yellow baptisia and the red Japanese maple behind it.

Still, the dream clung to the back of my consciousness, while I grew up and learned what was needed to survive. I’m not going to lie to you. Some of those years didn’t feel beautiful or fruitful, but they were.

'Cl. Old Blush' on an arbor in what was the original entrance to my vegetable garden, but now in the center of things.

When I was ready, I met Bill. He was dashing and handsome . . . still is, but I didn’t trust my own instincts. I’d had bad fortune before when I didn’t see through outward disguises. How was I to know if he was my Prince Charming?

Hesitantly, we dated, and eventually, he invited me back to his castle.

When I drove up the gravel road and turned down the drive, I couldn’t see much in the waning light, but then, suddenly, through the overgrown pasture, there it was: a log cabin. I felt a small catch in my throat. It couldn’t be true, could it?

The cabin looks very different today from what it once did. I'd say together, it like our lives, has significantly improved.

Laughing over meals and drinking coffee, we fell in love, and I discovered why the pasture was overgrown. Bill was working night and day, six days a week for a paving company in Shawnee, over an hour away. After nearly a year of dating, we married. Together, we worked to make the cabin more sound. We caulked windows and stained the exterior, and for years we were broke. Between the two of us, we could barely squeeze a dime, but I still realized my dream was coming true, rose by rose, year by year. We were blessed with three daughters and a son, with one daughter a marriage bonus. The children are nearly all grown now, except for Bear, who is a teen herself. Over the years, with a landscape only limited by my imagination and red soil, I added roses, a few every year. I’ve lost count, but several snuggle the cabin’s exterior, which we enlarged to accommodate our family. Now the cabin seems very large, and I added roses to the garden at its feet. We planted trees for the future and shrubs and perennials. It is now our prairie paradise, but it took:


Effort, and


'Cl. Old Blush on arbor from outside the garden

Every year is different from the last which keeps things interesting . . . in my marriage, my family, and my garden.

This spring, we’ve received plenty of rainfall perfectly spaced. You can do everything possible to have a beautiful garden, but without rainfall, nothing will thrive. I added five roses this year and removed two. The roses I added?

Rosa ‘Mary Rose,’ a David Austin or English rose. I’ve placed her on the east side of the house in the rose garden between ‘Footloose’ and ‘Buff Beauty,’ which have been there for over six years.

R. ‘Cl. Pinkie,’ a Polyantha. I once planted ‘Cl. Pinkie’ on my white rusted arbor, but once Pinkie bloomed, she turned out to be ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner.’ So, I loved and enjoyed the fair Cecile for many years until we had that record-breaking cold snap in 2010 of negative 17F. ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ climbed no more. I dug out dead canes and roots, and I replaced her late last spring with Wisteria frutescens var. macrostachya (Kentucky Wisteria) ‘Blue Moon.’ I noticed the other day that ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ has come back from her roots and is now starting to climb the wisteria. Not what I expected after such a terrible cold snap, but as in marriage and family, you never really know what’s going to happen no matter how well you plan. It’s all good. The two will be very pretty together, and because ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ was on her own roots she will be true to form.

If you want a wisteria, plant an American native one instead of the Chinese or Japanese variety. They are more mannerly in their climbing style and won’t pull down your structure. They are a lovely blueish purple, and they bloom later, usually avoiding late freezes. The one I planted to replace ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ on one side of the main arbor started to bloom yesterday after the rain. The flowers are held in long racemes.

Little lamb with 'Zephirine Drouhin'

So, I placed the new, real ‘Cl. Pinkie’ on the wall against the east side of the house where she will have plenty of room to climb up the trellis. It was in bad shape after we had the house stained last spring. Bill rehabbed it for me a few weeks ago.

Then, I planted ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ next to ‘Cl. Pinkie’ along the same wall. So pretty. You can grow ‘Zephirine Drouhin,’ a Bourbon, as a shrub or a climber. I think I’ll keep this one as a larger shrub.

The roses I replaced were Grandma’s Blessing Easy Elegance®, Sweet Fragrance Easy Elegance® and one other I can’t remember. The first two I was given to try, but they just didn’t work well in my garden. C’est la vie.

'Grandma's Yellow' rose

When I was at a local nursery, I also bought two ‘Grandma’s Yellow Rose,’ formerly known as ‘Nacogdoches.’ Roses are frequently renamed if the original name doesn’t catch the buying public’s eye and wallet. This rose was a foundling in Texas and originally named after the county where it was found.

Conard-Pyle Company sent me two shrubs of R. ‘Meikanaro’ Sunshine Daydream to try this spring. I’m excited because it is supposed to be another disease-resistant yellow rose. One of my daughters has a passion for yellow anything, and I’ll think of her when these roses bloom. Shiny healthy leaves are fleshing out the strong canes, and we shall see.

R. 'Darcey Bussell,' a David Austin which performs really well in my garden, up against the house where it doesn't get too cold.

As for me, my love is a red, red rose, and when I found my prince, I didn’t expect him to make the cottage rose-covered for me. I did that myself with his blessing. That’s what great marriages and friendships do. They provide the framework of our dreams.


  1. What a great story. You are a good story teller.

  2. Julie says:

    Dee, what a lovely post. I love your honesty, and I’m so happy you found and created a wonderful life with your prince! Your log cabin is a dream, and the roses…oh my. I have rose-envy! In our very shady gardens, I have one tiny patch that receives enough sun for roses. A yellow tea-rose that my mother gave to me moved from my first home to this one, and it thrives in that bit of sun.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful gardens with us!

  3. Annie says:

    What a lovely post and lovely gardens. I followed much the same path as you, finding my prince of a second husband and we built a log house in northern Indiana. I try to grow roses, but have a lot of problems with black spot. They are worth the effort, though.

  4. Janet says:

    Your garden is stunning!

    We are enjoying a lovely spring in our neck of the woods too!

  5. Sonia Kirk says:

    Your garden is so lovely! Enjoyed my visit! Love those roses.
    Miss Bloomers

  6. Jo says:

    What an incredible and inspiring post Dee! I want to thank you for writing it, it is just what I needed to read at this time in my writing about my garden.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Dee ~ no wonder you’re a writer ~ what a beautiful post you’ve written. It touches something in me since I’m still recovering from a bad 20’s mistake. Maybe someday I’ll trust again but meanwhile, I’m working on my own rose covered cottage! Glad your dreams came true!

  8. Janell West says:

    Dee, the way you’ve intertwined your own story with that of your home and garden feels much like gardening itself. The lines of one inform and accent the other . And where else but in the garden and in writing can we begin with blank space — and create a beautiful canvas, adding form and color and texture with a few lines — whether sentences or shrubs — paragraphs or perennials — or trilogies and trees? Beautiful. Maybe you could consider transplanting your story to some suitable publication — Country Living or perhaps, Victoria Magazine?

  9. it’s beautiful, dee, the story and the setting…and the writing. ~ daricia

  10. Melanie says:

    Sweet story!! Sometimes it is a real encouragement when we look into the rearview mirror and see where we have been. .and where we are now. Enjoy your rose covered cottage!! It is truly beautiful.

  11. Briana says:

    What a beautiful story and a beautiful home! At 24 and 31 I’m not sure either of us totally have our dreams figured out, but I know mine involves writing, photography and gardening. And my man, though he’s currently working two jobs, has dreams of becoming a professional fisherman with a farm (instead of 150 wooded acres). “I discovered why the pasture was overgrown.” really struck a cord with me. I hope with time our story ends up as blessed as yours!

  12. Gail says:

    I love a good romance and yours has what others don’t…We get a peak into the and they continued to live happily ever after. Oh yes, and we get to see the garden the princess created. xoxogail ps My 65 year old sister finally got her log cabin!

  13. DeDe says:

    What a wonderful story Dee. Bill is an awesome man and I am so happy for the both of you. Have a wonderful life together and enjoy the country, It is the best life. Your flowers are amazing !!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Dede, you know us both so well. 🙂 Yes, it’s a country life for me.

  14. Cherie says:

    What a beautiful fairy tale love story! And the cabin and roses are beautiful too!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Cherie, and thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate that so much.

  15. commonweeder says:

    What a wonderful love story – with no end in sight. I love hearing about the dreams others have, how they are achieved or accomodated. I think my fantasy has always been a farmhouse – which I have achieved – but The Rose Walk was never a dream or even a plan – it just grew like Topsy. I have Applejack and Mary Rose among my 70+ roses growing in a very different climate from yours, but like you, I feel I am living in the midst of my fragrant fantasy. Lucky us.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Pat, thank you. I’m glad you’re living in your own fragrant fantasy. If people only knew how good flowers smell . . . .

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh Dee, what a beautiful love story. Love of family, love of garden, love of life. It made my heart sing this morning reading this. It also made me want more roses. I don’t have very good conditions for roses but I do like them. That yellow one (Grandma’s rose) really intrigues me. You are oh so right about the rainfall making gardening so much easier. The weather gods have been stingy with rain in my area this spring. We are 4″ behind so the weather men say. Makes me fearful for summer to commence. I think sometimes when one has a rocky start with married life you are most appreciative when you find your perfect match. Happy Spring.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Lisa. I’m glad we made your heart sing. You’re having our kind of spring to an extreme. I’m so sorry. I hope the rain catches up with you and your climate soon.

  17. Carol says:

    Ah, that is a sweet story. Log cabins and roses… and dreams.

  18. joey says:

    Dee, you are a dear and I so love your sharing story. I had no clue about your background but always saw the beautiful dreamy/creative artist within you. Your life is rich … all stories included! I see soulfulness in all that you touch/share. Thank you for honoring us in sharing the beautiful stuff in your life (thorns, thistles, roses that make a rose-colored garden) … for such is the stuff of real life! A beautiful tale.

  19. Love how it all came together for you!!!! Cherish every moment and every rose.

  20. Greggo says:

    Very heartwarming nice story. You have been blessed.
    Love your roses, even though I’m not a rose person.
    My wife had a dream about an old bungalow with a porch swing on the prairie. I thought it was unusual as we lived in the mountains at the time and had just moved from Texas. As a couple we decided to become involved in full time ministry and move to the mountains in Colorado from Texas. This involved leaving my corporate job of 25 years and taking a leap of faith. We were very much blessed with the people we were involved with. However, we left behind our “dream” home and definitely had to downsize. After three years it became a financial burden to stay in Colorado and we moved back to Oklahoma/Kansas. We have not even been close to achieving the financial success we had before but we have never been happier, We are living in a small bungalow cottage just big enough for the two of us with a porch swing near the prairie. Just the house my wife had seen in her dreams.

  21. What a wonderful tale. I like log cabins, think they are so interesting. One neighbor has a log cabin and another is talking of building a log cabin two lots from us. It will be fun to watch it get built.
    What a gorgeous collection of roses. I have about ten Knock-outs (unless the deer got to them in the last two days) and one David Austin ‘Janet’. Wanting to add some more ‘fancy’ roses…..(not knock-outs) Thinking of a Bonica shrub rose….if I can find a good source. Little by little I will fill in my gardens…..love yours!

  22. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Dee, thank you for reminding me that as difficult as life can be sometimes, those experiences are helping us to grow. I’m so glad you found your prince!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Cindy. It’s been a rough week for you my darling. I am with you in spirit.

  23. Sonia Kirk says:

    Your garden is lovely! I just love all the roses in bloom right now. My knockouts are just loaded!! Love your garden..so many things to look at!!! Enjoyed my visit to your garden!
    Miss Bloomers

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sonia, gee, thank you! I love my sweet garden too, and no more than this year when the rains have been good and the weather seasonable.

  24. I didn’t used to dream of a cottage, but I do now, especially after seeing your roses. It’s inspiring how your dreams came true. You finally live in a cottage with roses. (So what if it’s made out of wood?)

    1. Dee Nash says:

      MMD, Exactly! I’m thrilled it’s made of wood and love. I feel grateful most days.

  25. Frances says:

    What a touching story, Dee, of how you found happiness and your dreams came true. I share with your daughter a love of yellow, in the way of roses. A yellow rose is the quintessential flower of my own dreams. I have a couple… need more. Life is a journey, but it seems you have found your destination of happiness.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Frances, I’m really excited about these ‘Grandma’s Yellow’ roses. I also like ‘Julia Child’ and ‘April Moon,’ all shades of yellow. ‘Carefree Sunshine’ has been a yellow hit this year too. I’ve added lots of yellow roses now that there are disease resistant beauties. I’ll let you know about the others I’m testing later this summer. Thank you.~~Dee

  26. What a lovely story. I love hearing how gardening runs through many gardeners’ lives, long before they get to indulge their passion.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathy, thank you. I think I’ve always loved to garden. What’s your story.

  27. Donalyn says:

    I love this Dee – it is an awesome thing to work together to make your place fit your dreams. We’re still at it!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donalyn, we are too. 🙂 It’s never finished is it?

  28. Oh Dee what a beautiful dream come true….I met my love at 40…it was the 1st marriage for both of us…it does take time, patience and love to build the framework…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, How lovely that you met your love when you did. You were both wise by then. I met Bill for the first time when I was 15 and later at 27.

  29. Layanee says:

    Do we will our dreams into reality? I think so, to some extent. You deserve roses and sunshine and your pictures show that you have received them. Live the dream!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, you live the dream too my darling friend. I think God knows the desires of our hearts and tries to help us achieve them if they are good for us.I fumbled about for a long time.

  30. I’m in the woods but not a cabin. You’ve renewed my desire for more roses. Great pics!


    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I think it’s cool that you are living in the woods. That’s the best place. I hope you can clear a bit for a rose or two.

  31. Dear Dee:
    I, too, have had a dream of a log cabin. And even though I’m 48, I’ve not yet given up on it. I still wonder where it will be located…my hunch is somewhere deep SE OK in the hills, without electricity. Maybe it will be a writing cabin. Those notions aside, however, I’m so incredibly glad that you got yours…AND your dear husband. And I love that it’s still evolving…just like the two of you.
    Peace, RDK

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh Kelly, thank you! I bet you’ll get your log cabin too one day. Mine is a bit big for a writing cabin, but I can see yours in my mind’s eye. I love S.E. Oklahoma, so beautiful and so verdant.

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