HIS arms are scarred with cuts from thorns, his skin tanned by the sun and his hands dirty from a day's hard work in the garden.
Cec Gleeson has an infectious passion for rose gardening and on any given day can be found amongst the hundreds of lovingly maintained roses in his Eastern Heights garden.
His oasis is home to 429 bushes in up to 10 varieties of roses and in every possible colour.
While the 80-year-old's garden resembles a florist and smells like a department store fragrance counter, Cec's love for gardening started when he was a boy and has blossomed into what he calls an obsession.
"It gets you out of the house, it's a form of seeing something develop, you can't wait for the first bud to open, it has its success and failures and like us they have a habit of dying," he said.
"It's a good way of losing blood but they always seem to heal up.
"Sometimes it's the joy of giving people roses. You're creating something that's beautiful, nice to look at and nice to have.
"The satisfaction is people going away with a rose and they look like a kid with an icecream.
"If you're going to grow roses you have to be retired or mad or it helps to be both because they are time consuming to do justice to."
He said his passion was sparked by his parents.
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"I came from a gardening family, my father looked after the veggie garden and my mother looked after the flower garden and of course her favourite flower was the rose," he said.
"Back in those days kids helped so I used to help in the garden. As time went on when I was going to primary school and my voice broke, I was kicked out of the music lesson and told to go down and water the garden so I became more interested in gardening.
"After planting a few roses and finding out how nice they looked, what started out as a hobby became an obsession. Then I became involved in the Queensland Rose Society and managed to win the novice championship division three years in a row."
Cec shared his love for gardening with children through citrus and gardening clubs throughout his 48-year teaching career.
Teaching and rose gardening were also passions he shared with his late wife Beryl.
"Her gardening was what we called the scrappy type, she had lots of plants, agapanthus, camellias, azaleas, daylilies, you name it she had it. That was a common interest I had with my now departed wife," he said.
Valentines Day is Cec's time to shine every year and he said the attraction to the traditional red rose was as much about science as emotion.
"The red rose tends to have a higher smell and perfume, red is the colour of blood, the colour of the heart," he said.
"Working in the yard is a wonderful source of exercise with the pleasure of seeing something beautiful and scented develop from what was a mere stick with a few roots at the end.
"The main thrill comes when someone's face glows with pleasure when I give them a bunch of my beauties and they have had the first long sniff of their fragrance."
Cec's St Valentines Day history
ON February 14, 278 AD, Valentine, a holy priest in Rome, was executed.
Emperor Claudius at that time was having difficulty getting soldiers to join his army.
He believed Roman men were unwilling to enlist because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
He therefore banned all marriages but Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
Subsequently Valentine was beaten to death with clubs and beheaded on February 14. While in jail, St Valentine had left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter and signed it 'from your Valentine'.
This date gradually became the date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gift such as flowers.
Cec invites "interested rose fanciers" to visit his garden for a chat and viewing. Call him on 34285113 to arrange a time.
Cec's tips for the perfect rose
- Buy one that is likely to grow in this area.
- Pick a healthy bush that has a large stock to it and with no disease.
- Be prepared to look after it once its in the garden.
- Be prepared to lose a little blood.
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