Talk of the Town - Posies of Rosies June 15 2005

Peter van Norde's green thumb gives rise to a bountiful rose garden

Tucked away at the end of a Duluth cul-de-sac is Peter van Norde's haven for work and relaxation: a garden consisting of more than 245 roses. In their midst grow azaleas, maple trees, dogwood trees and hydrangeas, while goldfish and Japanese koi swim in two ponds also created by van Norde. Throughout the garden there are paths leading to different seats, which he says give guests unique perspectives of the back yard.

Back in the spring of 2000, van Norde began transforming what he considered a disastrous back yard full of pine trees and dirt. He installed an on-site well that maintains a reservoir of 700 gallons of water, which provides the garden and his household with all the water they need to subsist. The upkeep of deadheading roses, spraying and fertilizing the garden is a full-time job for van Norde, while simultaneously rewarding him with the ideal spot to put his feet up and relax.

Creative Loafing: What inspired you to create this garden?

Van Norde: Over the years, I never had a garden, but whenever I had the opportunity to visit a garden, I would go. I love the color combinations and the way gardeners put together plants. If you're busy throughout your life, then you have to continue to keep busy, and a garden will keep you busy.

I understand you are having a local middle school's teachers and staff over this afternoon for a picnic in the garden. How else has your garden connected you to the community?

There's one fellow down the street - every time he has somebody visiting, he says, "Let's go to the park," and he means here. The Greater Gwinnett County Rose Society has been here for meetings two years in a row. People bring their sons and daughters for prom pictures in the garden. I've also had a rehearsal dinner here with about 70 people. Once in a while I put on a Sunday brunch for friends and family, where I make the omelettes and try to have it on a day like today when people can sit outside and enjoy the garden.

Do you have favorite places to sit in the garden?

The two chairs right on top of the pond, where the roses are all out in front of you. The smell from those roses is just perfect. There are paths that don't go any place except for a couple of seats, and I like that, because when you're sitting on one of those stone seats, you're in the garden and you get a whole different perspective. Rather than looking at the garden, you're right in it.

What role does the garden play in your life year-round?

The garden is beautiful every time of the year. No matter what time of the year you look at the garden, there's something different about it. Each day is different, too, because the sun hits the garden at different angles throughout the day, giving it different shades, colors and shadows.