Doug and Patti Rose
California USA

Photo by Andrew I. Jones

Roses bloom
amid the lily pads

Sunday, July 11, 2004
By Andrew I. Jones
for the Eureka (California) Times-Standard
Reprinted with permission of the author

Click images to enlarge

MCKINLEYVILLE -- When Patti Rose had her midlife crisis, her husband, Doug, was listening. Really listening.

Three year later, Doug and Patti Rose own Rosepond Aquatics, a supplier of pond plants to Humboldt County nurseries and the latest addition to the Saturday farmers' market in Arcata and the Thursday Henderson Center market in Eureka.

At 55, Patti had left a 20-year career in Los Angeles writing procedures for the Space Shuttle's main engines, and was pursuing a master's degree in geographic information systems at Humboldt State University.

"One day I was complaining about my master's project when some piece of wisdom fell out of my mouth, and Doug heard it," Patti said. For the first time, Doug heard her clearly define her frustration that, at her age, she didn't want to struggle and compete with young people to land a job in a new career. As Patti recounts, Doug's ears perked up and he shouted, "Finally!"

The conversation that ensued was an epiphany of sorts for Patti. "I realized I really wanted to build a business out of what I was doing for fun all the time out in the backyard with my ponds," she said.

The idea was an easy sell for Doug when she explained he could have the sound of a waterfall outside his bedroom window.

"He's so happy listening to those ponds now. Lying next to a pond, he hangs his hands in the water and the fish bite on his fingers. He's my inspiration," she said. 

Rosepond Aquatics

Patti acquired her first aquarium at age 8. She dug her first pond at 18 when she left home and rented a cottage. Ponds persisted wherever she lived, whether dug out, or created in makeshift plastic kiddie pools.

"When you actually stop and look inside a pool of water, there's a lot of stuff going on in there. The cycles of the pond go along with the cycles of the seasons. It's ceaseless fascination for me," she said.

That youthful excitement is shared with kids in the neighborhood, who frequently visit the Roses' backyard. A 4-foot-square pond exists for the kids.

"We built it and told them it was theirs to explore. There are frogs, tadpoles, whirligig beetles, worms, dragonfly nymphs, water lilies and grasses to explore," Patti said.

Doug notes that the kids' pond helps keep their other eight growing tanks from being disturbed. "We told the kids that pond was just for them. They're so fascinated and curious. They're nuts about it," he said.

The couple grows more than 120 varieties of hardy water lilies, differing in color, size, fragrance, shape and sunlight requirements. They also have the same number of "marginal plants," that grow at the edge of a pond or wet area, such as grasses, Horsetail, Marsh Marigold, or Pennywort -- a plant used at the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary to purify wastewater. Mosquito fish live in all their growing tanks to deter mosquito larva.

The Roses also do consulting on pond building and troubleshooting. Patti is the plant lady, and Doug describes himself as "the grunt guy."

Doug grew up on a Nebraska farm, cleaning barns, moving hay bales, and even driving a tractor, albeit slowly and with directions shouted to him. Doug has been blind from birth, but with his upbringing, he said, ponds aren't too daunting.

"I move plants, dig holes, load the soil bin and do construction projects. I find it enjoyable because I like to be outside," he said. Patti credits him with pulling projects through. "We do a dance when we're planning a project. I come up with a vision, but don't have all the details. Doug wants to know what it will look like or how it will function. He works the logistics and dimensions out in his head and makes what I wanted really happen," she said. 

Photo by Andrew I. Jones

Doug is also a part-time consultant on independent living and accessible technology for LightHouse of the North Coast and the state Department of Rehabilitation. Patti is a part-time administrative assistant at LightHouse, which serves visually impaired residents in Humboldt and Del Norte County.

As for the future, the Roses foresee steady growth, both of their business and their passion.

Patti has contributed many lovely images to the Waterlily Galleries, including those above.

Patti Rose's Gallery 1 | Gallery 2

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