Hospital on the Hill: Rose Garden needs helpers for massive pruning

January 12, 2005
Santa Paula News

As the fortunes of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital ebbed and the community-built facility was closed in December 2003, there has been one constant bright spot.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesAs the fortunes of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital ebbed and the community-built facility was closed in December 2003, there has been one constant bright spot. Located just below the Hospital on the Hill is the Morris Memorial Rose Garden, which survived not only the hospital’s failure but also a still-broken waterline that served the 100-plus bushes.The garden’s next challenge is the upcoming massive pruning effort. If you would like to help prime the rose bushes for the spring bloom, you are urged to volunteer on January 17 starting at 2 p.m.“It’s been an act of good faith and confidence” that SPMH would be reopened that has kept the regular Rose Garden volunteers at their work, said Cathy Barringer, whose family created the garden almost 30 years ago in memory of her mother, Catherine Emily Crump Morris. Volunteers have been willing to work every Monday afternoon on “something that we didn’t even know would remain there…it’s been a real act of faith. The garden is a community asset,” admired for not only its rose beauty but also for its location, overlooking the river valley, that lends itself naturally to meditation and even use as a chapel.The families of seriously ill patients found solace in the garden, a destination also popular for lovers. “The garden has still been something that is a part of the community, and it was particularly special for people to remain so devoted to it,” Barringer noted.Roses must be cut back in the winter to allow for the spectacular later blooms and with over 100 bushes to prune, well, it’s going to take a lot of helpers. “After pruning, then the hard part is cleaning up all the clippings, loading them into a truck,” said Barringer. “Later we fertilize and spray…we expect our first bloom in the middle of April after the roses rest and get their energy.”The Rose Garden volunteers have had to contend with a broken waterline for more than a year. “That’s been a challenge, dragging hoses,” Barringer noted. “I think it’s wonderful that volunteers have been willing to help once a week when the future of the hospital has been so iffy!”
Although “Hospital Hill” has been very quiet since the SPMH closed on December 19, 2003, “Nevertheless, those driving up have still been able to enjoy the Rose Garden. Volunteers have gathered every Monday at 4 p.m. to keep the garden blooming. Bill Crow has fertilized and sprayed and helped drag around hoses to keep the plants watered.”Keeping the garden alive is a tribute to the faith and confidence of Cathy and Carl Barringer and all their Rose Garden Helpers, who also enjoy tea, cookies and good company. Doug Armstrong has volunteered his truck for the January 17 pruning, and volunteers are asked to bring heavy gloves, “clean clippers and a sense of fun,” said Barringer.When Cathy’s mother died in 1976, friends and family joined to plant a garden in her memory. “She was called ‘Margo’ by everyone, a lady full of warmth and enthusiasm, so the garden needed to be informal in style.”Carl Barringer organized family friends to help: Johnny Stroh designed the wandering path, Ray MacCalister poured the concrete, Roy Wilson, Jr. put in a drip system and Boyce Blackshear donated wood planks. Carl and the Barringer sons dug holes in the rock-like adobe soil, and local nurseryman Stan Wakham helped find the old roses, which were either Margo’s favorites or patents of her rose-grower husband. The Ontario-based Roy Weeks Nursery had done business with Cathy’s father and donated some of the special roses.Active Rose Garden volunteers are Mary Lee and Al Sundstrom, Debbie Burns, Dr. Dora Crouch, Bobbie Heron, Gretchen and Roland Rogers, Paul Smith, Ellen Ruby, Char and Earl Wintz, and Doug and Judy Armstrong. Emeritus helpers include Bud Hey (now 100 years old), Anne and Jim Rescoe, and Elizabeth Blanchard.For more information on volunteering at the Rose Garden and the January 17 pruning, call Cathy Barringer at 525-7985.

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