On any given day, or to be more precise, seven days a week, Rosalind Burgess, better known as “Roz,” can be seen stooped over the flower beds she has designed and built in the past five years in the area near the colorful Randolph mural on Forest Street.
This summer is the first that she has not been landscaping there. Those beds are finally looking the way she likes them, and now it’s mostly just maintenance, she explained while taking a break from tending to the plants in front of Village Pizza on Main Street.
It is Burgess’ first season creating the beds at the pizzeria, but over the course of her four decades in Randolph, she has worked on many private gardens in the area, she said. Five years ago, however, she approached then-town manager Mel Adams about the possibility of designing and working on gardens for the town.
Starting little by little, Burgess brainstormed patterns and got plants in the ground at Depot Square and in front of the mural on Forest Street. As the summers went on, she and her flowers have made their way up the slope to the right of the mural. Now, her efforts are concentrated in the adjacent plot, off of Elm Street.
Roz Burgess adjusts a wind chime in the town gardens along Forest Street. (Herald / Bob Eddy)
“The town cares what it looks like,” she said—and she does too.
She doesn’t like straight lines—“wiggled lines” are her preference, she said. In her gardens, she always makes sure to incorporate bright shades of her favorite colors: yellow, orange, and red. Her designs, she explained, are all geometric and often based on her abstract artwork.
Since her youth in Maryland, Burgess has enjoyed painting and drawing, which she does with pastels and charcoal. Plants were also central to her childhood, she said. Burgess said she has Blackfoot ancestry and explained that she grew up watching her mom work in the garden. It was there that she learned the importance of timing in relation to planting flowers.
“If I did a nice flower garden, my mother would give me a rosebush and my brother would give me a beefsteak tomato,” she recalled.
Years later, in her early 30s, Burgess reconnected with gardening and got her hands back in the earth, teaching herself through trial and error and hours of reading articles by the renowned British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll.
On a Mission
Studies and practice aside, Burgess is gifted with a green thumb, which she uses throughout town.
When she has finished tending to one garden, she packs up and walks to the next.
She has no car, she said, adding how much she values the rides people have offered her to Route 66 Garden Center in Randolph and Dandelion Acres in Bethel.
“I want to thank all the people that have donated flowers, the food they have given me, and the drinks, and the good company— stopping by and talking to me about my gardens and how well I’ve done,” she said, tears welling.
Following the deaths of several close friends and years of grief, Burgess had told herself something had to change in her life. The quiet of her work, the plants, and the breeze gave her space to “work out [her] frustrations,” she said, speaking to what she sees as the therapeutic power of “digging in the dirt.”
“I feel that I have accomplished something in life. And that garden is right there. I had the chance to do something,” she said.
Even as she is completing her work on Elm Street, Burgess said she feels her mission has been accomplished.
“I like to make people happy,” she said, and her gardens have done that for her too.
“I’ve had so much fun down at that corner. I’m happy. I’m a very happy person.”
-- CECILE SMITH