A tribute to John Dallas and a response from his wife

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Napa County Record
Your community Positive Living newspaper in the Valley since 1946

Volume 55, No. 4             April 2000            Napa, California

John Dallas: A man for all seasons

by Nancy Brennan, based on her
story which appeared in the Napa
County Record April 19, 1990

   John Dallas, who passed away on February 27, 2000, gained popularity and a measure of fame from his Rose Garden on Mt. George Avenue in Napa.  Every year he held an open house, and gardeners from all over northern California came to enjoy the results of his green thumb and eye for design.

   In 1973, when he and his wife, Gladys, and their children moved to Mt. George, there were only a few trees, a barn and a house on the property. After John developed the land, he had more than 500 varieties of roses -- draped on arbors, growing along paths and serving as ground cover -- as well as a grove of redwoods.

   Dallas' love for plants came to the fore when he served in Korea for the second time. He experimented with planting some zinnia seeds around the Quonset hut at the camp near the demilitarized zone. They grew to be more than five feet tall.

   When he retired from the service, Dallas worked at Cudaback's Nursery for three years, then was offered a job teaching at an alternative school for junior high school dropouts located at Conn Dam. In an interview with Napa writer and historian Nancy Brennan, he recalled, "I taught the outside classes. We made trails for the other students to use."

   When the funding for the program ran out, he earned a Master's degree in counseling. When he interviewed at Solano College for a counseling job, they noticed his horticultural experience and offered him a job as horticulture instructor. During this time he became involved in his garden at home and also taught courses at Napa Valley College for another seven years.

   Besides creating an attractive setting for his home, the garden he worked so hard on had two purposes: First, to show how roses can be used in a garden, and that they aren't hard to care for, and second, he wanted to introduce people to some of the less common roses.

   Dallas was interested in "Heritage" roses, the varieties grown before hybrid tea roses were recognized in 1867. Local nurseries used to refer customers to him if they wanted an unusual rose bush or if they wanted to see how the plant looked in the landscape.

   Dallas believed that one of the principles of landscape design is to have plantings and structures that you can look through to see other vistas. He accomplished this with trees and trellises and arbors. In some cases he had four different climbing roses on one arbor. And if a rose wanted to climb a tree, that was all right too. His was a very natural garden.

   Visitors came from far and wide to see his garden, but John Dallas remained a genuine person, with a real love of gardening. After years of teaching horticulture classes and perfecting his wonderful home garden, Dallas never sprayed except rarely for weed control. "I can smell the roses," he would say, "instead of the sprays."

   A memorial for Dallas will be held in his garden on May 6.

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