Monday, May 15, 2006

A Bed of Roses

In case you don't know, I have become a gardener in my later years. People think that growing up in small town Tennessee is the same as growing up on a farm. After all, you were "out in the country". The truth is that for most of my life I could not have told you how to plant a seed if my life depended on it. Then we bought our first house and all my latent fantasies came to the front. I yearned for roses. In fact, I found that I had a strong desire to live in a rose covered cottage.

When we bought our current home I inherited two rose bushes and added four more spread throughout the various beds in my front and back yards. I soon found out why some people hate roses. They are like temperamental teenage girls. Over the winter they sit sullenly in my yard resembling nothing so much as rusted rebar. I swear at that point that I will rip them out. Around the beginning of May I begin my enslavement to them. Each week I feed them with smelly concoctions, I watch carefully to see which ones have developed any horrible rose-specific cooties and then use gentle organic (read time-c0nsuming) methods to get rid of them. I prune them and coddle them and swear once more to get rid of them and plant a yard full of daisies. And then they bloom. The cottage roses at the front come in all full and flashy, the hardy bush rose bursts out in a riot of deep pink. The two old roses that came with the house fill my back yard with this wonderful spicy sweet scent. And I am hooked again. The two roses that I inherited are old roses and only bloom for a month in June. The others will bloom all summer if I am a faithful servant. I'm beginning to accept my relationship with the roses. A couple of years ago I bought them lavendar bushes to keep away pests. The lavendar completed the "scent garden" I had put at the front of my house. As you walk up the front path you brush against a creeping thyme and then you smell the roses. There are lilies later in summer which give off a less cloying scent.

You can tell a lot about a person from their garden. And often the act of planting a garden tells you a lot about yourself. I always thought that I would plant well ordered rows and boxes. I assumed I would do formal plantings in well contained beds. Indeed that's how my first garden started. But once I got enough space, my inner Byron came out. My well ordered beds morphed into a cottage garden in the front. The rock garden I inherited overflows now with lily of the valley and succulents. I have a cutting garden in back that is home to my sacrificial daffodils. In spring I cut every one of them and fill up a cobalt blue vase. Then I spread the rest through the house. This year I also had giant red emperor tulips back there. Those landed in my front hall. I am a glutton for color but somehow it all works. And I have no idea who this person is who plants these flamboyant plots. I'm beginning to think that a garden is the perfect path to self awareness.


the only daughter said...

I started gardening (this term is generous in my case) just about 2 years ago. I'm one of 9 owners in a condo building. None of the others showed one whit of interest in maintaining the small front lot.
A previous owner, just before putting her unit on the market, planted a bunch of prennials, shrubs and a couple of trees.
After she left and I saw that no one else was going to..I stepped in. It started with maintenance. I'm slowing becoming interested in more than maintaining but also creating-beacuse there are some blank spaces--the planting plan was a bit willy nilly. I don't have any help, but that's beginning to be ok too. said...

Roses... my dear old step-mother in Wales a thousand years back. Stay with me, please.... she knew how to grow plants. But her roses were impotent. I suggested major surgery. I cut them almost back to the roots. She was horrified! The following year, she had beautiful roses. Those rose bushes are still going, perhaps some 60 years later! Now if only I could get my tomatoes to grow in Florida!