Vidalia resident Pat Dillon’s yard sports at least 800 varieties of roses

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; If Ferriday native Mickey Gilley had a hit with &uot;A Room Full of Roses,&uot; Vidalia resident Pat Dillon is a hit in her own right &045; with side and back yards full of the blooming, blushing beauties.

She must be, considering the number of people who visit on an average Sunday afternoon.

Dillon estimates that she has added no less than 800 different rose bushes &045; teas, miniatures, climbers, hybrids, cabbage roses &045; to her yard on Peach Street since 1989.

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That’s when she first started growing roses, through friends who were members of Natchez’s Rose Society.

At first, she also grew and sold daylilies. Now, it’s roses all the way.

On Sunday afternoon, Dillon was entertaining relatives under a pear tree in her back yard &045; the perfect place from which, enjoying a cool breeze, to view rows upon rows of roses.

But several friends from church, from time to time, would also stop by just to stroll through the gardens, stopping every now and then to test their fragrance.

&uot;I always tell them that if they have time to stop and smell the roses, my place is the place to be,&uot; Dillon said.

&uot;It’s like anything else,&uot; she said. &uot;If it’s something you enjoy, you don’t mind showing it to other people.&uot;

It’s a labor of love, for sure.

Dillon spends about two hours a day watering and fertilizing the plants, not to mention applying pesticide and fungicide when it is needed.

&uot;They (insects) are already starting up this year,&uot; Dillon said, inspecting the blooms and stems closely for a brief second.

Other than that, she keeps up with the latest varieties via the Internet and catalogs and through the Alexandria-based Cenla Rose Society.

She tends the roses, she said, early in the morning while it’s still cool. &uot;But how much time do I spend out here? All day,&uot; Dillon said with a laugh.

She does not lack shady, scenic spots to sit, that’s for sure.

Her husband, a self-taught builder and carpenter named Edgar, has built at least three swings where they can sit to watch the bees and birds dance among the roses, as well as a trellis and other garden decorations.

With her passion for roses of all varieties, an obvious question would be this: which variety will she acquire next?

After all, she seems to already have it all &045; roses in every shade from white to blushing pink to scarlet to purple to sunny yellow to bright orange.

They range from Compassion, a pale climbing rose decorating a trellis to International Herald Tribune, a hardy variety which blooms just outside her back door.

&uot;Oh, I don’t think I’ll get any more any time soon,&uot; Dillon said with another laugh, surveying the expanse that is now her garden.

&uot;If I got any more, I’d have to get rid of some of them.&uot;

But she’s not giving up on the ones she already has. Not as long, she said, as &uot;I walk out my door each morning and say, ‘Wow.’&uot;