Gardener's 8-foot Oriental lilies stand out in Reserve

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Rose Rausch loved to grow carnations and roses when those flowers still had a fragrance. But her blooms never stopped traffic like the Oriental lilies her son Frank grows in Reserve.

Mr. Rausch planted 'Extravaganza' bulbs several years ago in front of the house he has lived in nearly his entire life (his family moved next door when he was 11). Soon the large white blossoms with pink freckles were opening atop stems that stretched to their usual 3 or 4 feet -- then kept going.

They routinely reach 8 feet tall, nearly 2 feet taller than their 6-foot-1 grower, and high enough to broadcast their sweet perfume up and down the winding road.

"You can't miss 'em," Mr. Rausch said proudly.

The lilies, which he fertilizes with Miracle-Gro and sometimes cow manure, reach their peak around the Fourth of July and last about three weeks. But the rest of the Rausch garden continues to thrive. Trees include a tricolor beech, elderberry and two Austrian spruces grown from seeds his aunt brought from Austria 35 years ago. A 6-foot -tall Pieris japonica, rose of Sharon and roses add seasonal color to flower beds. Only a few rose bushes remain in a yard that was filled with them when Mr. Rausch was a child.

His mother grew sweet-smelling roses ranging in color from rust to pink to ruby red. His father, a meat cutter whose parents were Austrian, grew only vegetables. "He said, 'You can't eat flowers.' "

Today, Mr. Rausch grows tomatoes, peppers, basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, onions and stevia, a natural sweetener. His father would also like the black raspberries "that the birds planted." But Frank Rausch's heart -- like his mother's -- is among the flowers.

"She got out as soon as it was daylight," he said, adding that he, too, prefers to work in the coolness of the morning.

When it gets hot, he retreats to the shade of his gazebo, which is surrounded on two sides by tall shrubs, ferns and this year, burgundy and lime green coleus. The bed's centerpiece is a multilevel fountain topped by a headless statue. The head lies on a ledge not far from a concrete elephant head cast by students at Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Kensington, where Mr. Rausch taught culinary arts for 23 years. Before that, he was a chef at restaurants in New York and Connecticut.

Now retired, he cooks and bakes only for fun. During Lent, he used to teach his high school students how to shape and fry the huge doughnuts his mother made as a girl in the Austrian province of Burgenland. In 1994, just a month after Rose Rausch passed away at age 83, former PG food editor Suzanne Martinson featured Mr. Rausch and his students making her signature light, airy Austrian doughnuts (recipe is linked to this story.)

"As long as we do this, my mother will never die," he said at the time.

And as long as sweet-smelling flowers mark this bend in the road, Rose Rausch's garden will live on.

mobilehome - garden

Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978. First Published July 27, 2013 4:00 AM


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