This quote accurately describes something that has been a large part of Mary Harsh’s life: planting, growing, and sharing roses. She’s the granddaughter of Farmers Bank & Trust’s original founders and still lives in Magnolia, Arkansas today. Many people who know Mary in Columbia County also know the love she has for her rose garden.

“I remember seeing one of my grandmother’s garden, you know with peas and beans and that kind of thing. But, I never was much of a gardener,” Harsh said. “Now roses – that really appealed to me.”

A Gift to Enjoy

Through the years, she said she bought many rose books and magazines and visited rose shows to learn more. Her favorite part about all of it is making other people smile as she gifts them a beautiful bouquet. The day we did this interview with her, she had already gifted the majority of her blooms to the Magnolia Junior Charity League.

“I just want people to enjoy them,” she said. “Sometimes I take them to the nursing home and sometimes I take them to churches. If people call me and want them, I’ll share them if I’ve got some.”

She has about 115 rose bushes in her backyard now, but for the last four years, she’s decided not to replenish them as they die off. Mrs. Harsh is very active and won’t miss out on a good night of playing bridge with her friends, but tending to a garden full can be quite a task for a 98-year-old.

Master Gardener

It’s a hobby she picked up over time, but eventually, she became a Columbia County Master Gardener. However, it’s not something she prefers to brag about.

“There just happened to be two sisters who took me all the time and we had to take a test,” she explained. “They told me not to worry about it because it was an open book test. Well, of course, I sat in the middle of them and got a little help. They should’ve known when they made it open book! I say I’m a Master Gardener, but only because they were helping me.”

While her roses are widely known in south Arkansas, there’s also one thing you’ll learn about Mrs. Harsh when talking to her, she isn’t lacking a sense of humor.

For Beginners

“If you’re just starting out, buy you some really good pruning shears. I mean spend $50 on them and hold on to them. Don’t let anybody have them! I’ve lost some, a few too many through the years,” she laughed.

One of her biggest pieces of advice for someone who’d like to grow their own roses – patience.

“Make sure you buy a good rose bush from a nursery,” she said. “They might not look like you think they’re going to look at first but don’t give up the first year you try.”

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