Hehemann, who works for Davey Landscaping, knew they were trouble, having watched his parents struggle with roses through the years. "They just seem to need constant care. You really have to be dedicated."

He didn't know how dedicated until the job of caring for the rose garden alongside the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum on the western edge of Great American Ball Park downtown landed on his "to-d' list three years ago.

"I figured it would be a couple hours a week, but the first years I spent at least eight hours a week or more just dead-heading them," he says.

That's no surprise to Mike Combs, the Rose Doctor, an ex-teacher who ministers to roses and helped design and plant the garden in 2004, a tribute to Pete Rose's big 4192 hit that landed at a spot in its midst.

"It's was a hell of a job for someone who doesn't know about roses. That would be impossible. I wish him all the luck in the world. There was nothing like it in the U.S. "” no stadium had roses like this. It was spectacular," he says today, three years after his caretaking bid was passed over. He presumes it was due to economics.

Over 300 bushes were planted, with Combs' custom soil mix and an irrigation system, including four types of roses: White Iceberg, a floribunda planted along the stadium-side wall; Olympiad, a red hybrid tea, also along the back wall; a deep red Crimson Bouquet, a grandiflora/floribunda in the center of the main beds surrounded by Double Delight, a white hybrid tea rose that unfurls with light red tips.

The spot where Rose's big hit landed is marked by a white rose planted in a sea of red most easily viewed from the museum's upper floors where a plaque tells its story.

But nobody told Hehemann about it.

"The first year I was taking care of the bed, the bush died and I just planted a red rose," he says. "Everyone came up and said, "¢where's the white rose?' Finally the museum director came down asking about it and I said, "¢where does it go?' So I yanked it out and planted a white one on the spot," to the relief of the tourists who often ask about it when Hehemann is tending the beds.

Two years ago, to the chagrin of rose purists like Combs, Hehemann started replacing plants that lost their fight with winter's freeze or disease with Knock Out roses, a popular modern rose that's resistant to disease and insects, though it lacks the depth of vibrant color and furled structure of the older floribundas originally planted.

The biggest problem with their care is keeping them bug- and fungus-free Hehemann says. "I spray about every two weeks with a fungicide, Bayleton, treat them once a month with a granular fertilizer and give them a systemic granular insecticide, Merit, once year.

"The biggest problem is black spot, a fungus very common to roses, a combination of the high temperatures and the wet foliage. Once the black spot gets started it's just a pain to eliminate."

And though "the thorns will tear you up," says Hehemann, the garden has taught him a lot. "I've learned a lot about roses playing with them.

"I figure in another five years I'll be an expert."