Utah Stories

Babs in the City: Utah Roses

Community Gardens provide bounty and beauty.


image002It’s the time of year we’re told that if we don’t give or receive roses we’re in trouble or not loved. What started as a Roman festival thousands of years ago has turned into a conspiracy between DeBeers diamonds, Hallmark cards and chocolatiers. Remember, it’s only been two months since you were convinced the only way to show your love was by spending a lot of money on useless crap you can’t even remember now. I prefer the Roman celebration. A woman would put her name in an urn, a man would draw it out and the two would be partners for one calendar year. That was a great way of getting willing singles to couple up and see if love would work, but then Catholics came along and decided this was too heathen a tradition and changed the lottery up a bit. Then-Pope Gelasius had the men and women draw names of Catholic saints from urns and ordered the participants to be like those saints for the next twelve months. The event took place around Valentine’s Day and the “writing of names and notes” carried on through the centuries.


A Salt Lake City rose garden–forgotten for many years–is about to bloom again. Across the street from the Sun Trapp and Metro bars, the plot was previously owned by the Howa family, but retired developer Rick Howa sold it to the RDA several years ago. For decades, Rick’s father Joseph had grown vegetables and roses on the land, each week quietly sharing his bounty with St. Joseph’s soup kitchen. When asked why his dad was so into roses, Rick said, “He learned his love of the land from his father who came to the U.S. from Syria. He immigrated to California and started growing roses and vegetables. A guy named Walt Disney approached Grandpa and his wife to buy their land, bought it, but let them live there until they died. Disneyland is built over that humble little piece of property.”

Now Camille Winnie of the Downtown Alliance is spearheading a garden project with Wasatch Community Gardens, the Downtown Alliance and Advantage Services to train homeless women to grow organic farm herbs and produce among the roses, and to learn food production, marketing, finance and time management skills. They will sell the produce to Head Start, which currently provides over 4,000 meals each day for local kids. There are already fencing, irrigation, garden beds, mature fruit trees and a greenhouse on site. The women from the shelter will also receive help finding jobs in the community. It’s a win for everyone involved in this month of love.

Babs Delay – Principal Broker/Owner – Urban Utah Homes & Estates


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