Dr. Henry Najat

27 09 2009

By Sarah Milnar

Red Rose - by Meredith HartDr. Henry Najat’s knee-high rubber boots squashed in the wet grass as he ambled through his backyard garden. He used a red-handled shovel as a walking stick. A tear in the heel of his boot flapped open with each step, revealing brown wool socks. He kept walking.

“I spend a lot of hours in this garden,” Najat said.

He bent over a pink rose bush and cupped a blossom in his hand, stretching to take in its scent. Najat started growing roses 41 years ago when he came to the United States from Iran, starting his life in Chicago and moving to Monroe 10 years later. In his younger years he grew 1,000 rose bushes in the backyard. Now at the age of 76, the retired orthopedic surgeon maintains 700 rose bushes—by himself.

“The fragrance is more pronounced in the morning,” Najat said, releasing the pink blossom from his grasp.

The sunlight dries up the fragrant oils.

Najat drew a tissue from the pocket of his khaki shorts. He blotted the space between his thick-rimmed glasses and his yellow American Bee Keeping Association hat.

“I apologize for the weeds,” Najat said, thrusting the shovel into the earth, leaning on it.

Opening to the Light - by Meredith HartNajat came to the United States in 1957 as an exchange student, but decided to stay after marrying an American. In whichever country he’s lived, Najat has always had roses. He knows each rose by name, scientific and traditional. And he knows each rose by story.

The red Tabriz shares the name of the Iranian city in which he was born. The Attar Rose originally grew in the arctic, a place to which Najat jokingly compares Wisconsin’s frigid winters. The pink and yellow Peace Rose reminds him of harmony after World War II.

“I love that because I am against the wars,” Najat said, enunciating each word.

But Najat’s rosebushes aren’t just his sentimental darlings. They also serve as sweet spots for his honeybees.

Najat collects 80 to 90 pounds of honey from each of his eight hives. But he doesn’t sell it—he gives it to charity.

“For me it’s a hobby,” said Najat. “I don’t want people to say, ‘There’s that greedy guy who’s trying to make money off the bees.’ No, no. There’s not much money in that anyhow.”

The Bees - by Meredith HartNajat feeds his bees with granulated sugar, not corn syrup, for a more natural tasting honey. His wife designed the label: “All Natural Honey From the Persian Rose Gardens of Monroe, Wisconsin.”

Najat is fond of using Iran’s historical name of Persia on the label. It makes the honey sound romantic, he said.

Najat added that he wants to maintain his Persian roots and makes sure to keep his honey natural.

“I grew up in a country where just about everything was organic,” he said.

Dr. Henry Najat - by Emily LarsonAlthough modern gardening has introduced the use of pesticides and herbicides, Najat said he wouldn’t consider using such chemicals on his roses. He fears colony collapse disorder, when chemicals accumulate inside a hive after bees pollinate chemically enhanced flowers. This suffocates the bees, he said, shaking his head.

Najat unstuck the shovel from the ground and ambled deeper into his garden passing hundreds of rose varieties. There is no best rose to grow, he said.

“The best thing is what you like it,” he said.

Then Najat shuffled up to a red rosebush growing high enough to reach his shoulders. He carefully gripped the stem, placing his fingers carefully between the pointy red thorns. Nearly the size of his thumb, the thorns were some of the largest he’d seen.

“We all hate thorns,” he said. “I’m no exception. But the thorns on this rose look like rubies when the sun hits them early in the morning. Everything in the world can be beautiful. It depends on how you look at it.”

To view more photos of Dr. Henry Najat and his roses, please see the Flickr slideshow.

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One response

26 05 2010
Angey

Mr. Henry Najat I seen your pictures of flowers how beautiful they all are. I am also a big believer on how the bees need special care. The reason why I’m writing is if you don’t mind me asking what does your last name mean and where does it come from. I’m doing my home work because I’d like to find out how it is written in your culture. Thank you sooo very much. I hope to hear from you soon. Angey, Black Earth Wi

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