Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coming Up Roses at Terry Parker Baptist

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coming Up Roses at Terry Parker Baptist

Article excerpt


Lee Overstreet says he doesn't know much about roses.

Yet strangers stop to stare at the 135 rose bushes that he tends - voluntarily - at Terry Parker Baptist Church at 7024 Merrill Road. The roses, which come in all colors, are on both sides of the brick church with the distinctive spire.

Much as he appreciates the blooms, he doesn't care about their pedigree.

"I'm a practical person," said Overstreet, a 70-year-old retired mental health counselor. "What I know is how to make them grow, and that's water, fertilizer, sunshine, bug spray and pruning."

It's a successful formula for the modest Overstreet, judging by the attention the roses attract. Pedestrians frequently ask, "How do you do that?" Motorists stare out the window. One family recently drove down the street and then came back to tell him of their admiration.

Hair stylist Carolyn Johnson drives by Merrill on her way to work at Mixed Company and has noticed the flowers for several years. Last week, she told co-workers and customers to check them out because "they were prettier than ever."

Overstreet, who lives in the Lake Lucina area of Arlington, started taking care of the roses six years ago. Rosarian Ed Green, a member of the Jacksonville Rose Society, planted the garden on the church's east side. Terry Parker members donated the bushes in honor or memory of loved ones or friends.

Overstreet, also a church member, was pulling weeds in the flower beds one day when Green said he should help him out.

"I don't know anything about roses," Overstreet said he told Green.

"You don't need to know anything about roses," replied Green, who was pruning the bushes. "You can't hurt them."

Later, Overstreet learned that yes, you can hurt them if you cut off too much foliage. After Green's death several years ago, Overstreet took over and finished planting the west side of the garden. He also got the church to make new donor plaques because some had become illegible.

He's hard-pressed to say why he gives so much time to the roses. Finally, he said he's compulsive and has to do a project the right way, a trait he said came from his parents. …

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