• The Dumbarton Oaks Pebble Garden in Washington, D.C., was intended to be enjoyed from above.

    For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • The Folksinger rose is one of the nine roses that make up the columnist’s new rose walk in Greenfield.

    For The Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

In 1982, I bought “Theme Gardens” by Barbara Damrosch, a book that promised how to plan, plant and grow 16 gloriously, and different, gardens. My eye was immediately caught by the idea of a garden for old roses.

In the spring of 1982, we were embarking on only our third year in Heath, where we had a big lawn in front of the house and planted a big vegetable garden. I had never given much thought to flowers, except that I had been consumed by a desire for a few old-fashioned roses.

During our first Heath spring, I planted Passionate Nymph’s Thigh in front of the house. I was entranced by its name, but the French called it “Cuisse de Nymphe,” and the more staid British called it “Maiden’s Blush.” The Passionate Nymph is a perfect Alba rose, blushing pink with a delicious perfume and blue- grey foliage. It also has amazing vigor and stamina, which kept it blooming after 35 harsh Heath winters.

“Theme Gardens” inspired me to think about a whole rose garden — an ambitious thought, since I was working and my time and my rose budget were limited. A rose garden holding dozens of roses was not in the cards, but I began planting.

I was always an organic gardener, and my choices were mostly old roses, because they tended to be hardy and disease-resistant. Unfortunately, not Japanese beetle resistant, but I soon came close to conquering that problem with applications of milky spore disease.

Damrosch designed many other gardens with different themes: a Colonial garden, a secret garden, a Zen garden, and a butterfly garden, which is currently enjoying a new vogue. She was not the first to think of theme gardens, though. Gardeners often talk about their herb gardens or their white gardens or some other featured design element.

Gardeners come at these theme gardens from different angles. C.L. Fornari thinks gardens are for socializing, as well as for private enjoyment. She wrote “The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening…