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Transplanting wild roses and a lifestyle from the ‘wet side’

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When we moved to Wenatchee I looked forward to planting a garden. I got plenty of great local advice.

"You can grow anything, but don't plant shrubs under the eaves. The snow falls of the roof and crushes them," a former wet-sider warned us. The Master Gardeners at the farmer's market coached us, "Kill off your lawn. Keep your compost damp. Don't spray bugs that look like flies because some are really bees."

I brought along a few plants that I couldn't bear to leave behind, including Grandpa Eli's loganberries, and a handful of roses. "Roses will thrive in the desert," my husband assured me, but I transplanted only the toughest of old-fashioned European varieties and Chinese species anyway. I had rustled many of them over the years from abandoned farmyards and overgrown rights-of-way.

I didn't stop rose-rustling when we arrived here. I spotted a hedge of "Person Yellow" gone wild, and next to it, its brilliant orange sport, "Austrian Copper." Grandma always said "If you steal a start, it's sure to grow," so I made sure nobody was watching, found a shoot with roots on it, and pulled it up.

As I fled, I felt something soft under my heel and turned to look. It was the biggest snake I had ever seen alive. I leapt about 3 feet straight sideways, but I kept a grip on my root cutting. I don't suppose the snake had a way of warning me off, so I feel sorry for it. I must have given it a terrible backache.

Since stepping on the snake, I've been more inclined to stay home and grow vegetables in my former lawn. I planted a little tray of nine bell pepper plants that thrived unbelievably, but how would I use 70 bell peppers?

I don't spray the bees. It's crass of me, but if the aphids get thick on my roses, I brush them off with my fingers then wipe my fingers on my pant leg.

I have made one clear mistake with tolerating native plants. The milky pods outside my fence are pretty and fragrant, but they have decided to pop up inside the yard. They stick up their heads and grow a foot high in a day's time. Whenever I see them, I think "Cobras!" and I dread stepping on one of those.

Susan Sampson writes about the joys of discovering North Central Washington. She raised two sons and worked as a courtroom lawyer in Seattle before she and her husband retired to the Wenatchee area. She can be contacted at

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