That’s my rose bed.
To say I have a white rose garden sounds so English, so glamourous, so artistic. In truth, I have a raised suburban bed of white rose bushes. With one fellow that was planted accidentally, closed buds opening to reveal peach.
But I love my rose bed on beyond zebra, as per Dr. Seuss. And I’ve been puttering around in my thoughts, deconstructing fitfully, why do I love it so? After all, the bed’s not big, not exotic, neither a sign of personal skill nor terribly valuable to the larger community.
Maybe this. These.
1. I planted it myself, for the most part. I dug the holes and ordered the bare root plants, or picked up grown shrubs at a local nursery. I had the idea, I care for it, it’s mine. Ususally I’m a collaborator. Not here. If you spend much of your life respecting other people’s ideas it’s really fun to say These Are My Damn Roses And I’ll Plant Them Too Close Together If I Want To.
2. It’s all white. Except where it’s not. By which I mean there’s a unifying concept. The world is so varied and so vast; beauty comes in fragments. How do real gardeners and interior designers create that thing – and that one thing only – in the face of so many choices? Without a construct, or a de-construct I suppose, I might crawl under a low heavy table one morning, and stay there. Not because I felt poorly but because the world is too beautiful to meet.
3. That said, I disrupted my concept by accident and I’m glad. Even though I wanted the idea of a white rose bed, my accidental orange flowers echo the color of a 10-foot high apricot climber on a fence behind. You can see it reflected in the window of the top photo. Those who need constructs can embrace serendipity too.
4. Roses have names, I can know them or not, my choice. First I planted Iceberg and Pope John Paul II, then added the David Austin Glamis Castle, Winchester Cathedral and Mme. Hardy, then a few I know only as “freeway roses,” low-to-the-ground, simple flowers, hardy.
5. The scent. I can’t leave the house without smelling each one; Platonic citrus, vegetable, honey, vanilla, pine. It’s one of the ways I locate myself. Strong in the morning, the scent fades and gets lost in the smell of sun and gravel by the end of the day.
6. The cycle. Roses know their seasons. They tell me about winter and spring and summer. And there’s always one day, in April or May, when they hit their peak and I feel it like fireworks. Pop goes the rose bush. I would wish for a national holiday, All Hail The Rose, except that every zip code would celebrate a different date.
7. The possibilities. One could always do something else to a rose bed. One could take pity on strugglers and tear them out. One could foolishly crowd in yet another specimen. One could cut all flowers for the sake of one bouquet, and be forgiven. We can even foresee the boring repairs, the nails to hammer into corners, the wood that will need replacing, the rusting of the water valves.
And of course, something I don’t want to number per se, I care for my roses. I spray them with neem oil, I rustle up an extra hosing when we find ourselves in a heat wave, I deadhead and snip. They are like prickly pets, unpredictable in the small but wholly predictable in the large.
I find I like their green, waxy, often-spotted foliage almost as much as the flowers.