When I am 64-that would be yesterday. How is being 64 going so far? Sunday had to be one of the most beautiful June days in recent memory. 78 degrees, and breezy. Delightful. I put my feet up, whenever I could. No worries-I took the time to enjoy the day. I have sketchy plans for the work this week-sketchy is good enough. What was I studying on, having turned 64? Orange geraniums, and roses.
Many years ago a client in the fashion industry was miffed that I planted orange geraniums in her pots. She thought they were too pedestrian. I have been planting container gardens since 1987. I have seen a lot of plants come and go. I have passed on a lot of plants that couldn’t stick out a summer season in a container, start to finish. Ordinary plants are ordinary for very good reasons. They deliver. The dandelions bloom and prosper, no matter every effort that is made to eradicate them. Queen Anne’s Lace prospers and blooms in every field, and every crack in the highway. Pachysandra is a green mulch that covers the ground in almost every condition. As for orange geraniums, I love their color and robust habit. They bloom profusely. My client who felt she was getting pedestrian was mistaken. I appreciate any plant that is willing. They are a sensational shade of orange. Orange flowers and ordinary plants did not interest me much, 30 years ago. What did interest me was too embarassing to to repeat. I was a young person, endowed with all those ideas that reeked of babyhood. As for that planting of orange geraniums for my client- I switched her plants out, and took the orange geraniums home.
I was thinking yesterday that my fascination for orange geraniums might be a function of my age. I worry about that. Too much history can smell musty. I have been at planting containers a very long time. I like to think that every year my choices get better, my eye gets sharper. In an orderly scheme of things, my ability to compose gets better at the same rate that my knowledge of horticulture gets better. But maybe my love of orange geraniums, picotee petunias, yellow variegated foliage and purple sweat shirts may be a sign of my age. I have a memory of my Mom in her sixties-how old fashioned she was! It could be I am following in her footsteps. What would a young client think about picotee petunias? They might be appalled. At 64, I am thinking much about how I can continue to be relevant to my clients.That said, I think it is important at any age to put aside fashion, and think independently. Plants go in and out of fashion. Fashion is a concept that applies only given permission. An old windbreaker from the seventies may suit you just fine. My Chevy suburban with 110,000 miles-I am still quite happy with it. So even if a love of orange geraniums is a function of my 64th year, I will go ahead and plant them.
As for the roses, on the occasion of my 64th birthday, I have this to say. I was sure that every one of my 26 roses were dead this spring. I have not touched them for two months, as I have not had time to touch them. Given my neglect, 25 of my roses have come back strong from the root. I was not in any way patient about the trouble they suffered from our winter. I have ignored them, as I had to. I have been so busy, working. They had time to do what they would do, without interference from me. The spring is a very busy time for me. A late spring is all about work day and night. I was not expecting them to burst forth and grow from underground. The day I saw new growth from the bottom shocked me. I was so sure they were dead. Not so. Many of them are going on 5 feet tall now. Five feet of growth in 6 weeks? Astonishing. I have not taken any of the dead climbing rose canes off the wall. Those dead canes still have dead leaves attached to them. The few canes that are blooming are surrounded by dead rose leaves from last fall.
I have never seen anything like this, even though I am 64. I thought about cutting all of the dead canes of the wall, but I decided not to interfere. This decision was pure instinct. I will just tie the new canes to the old. This seems fitting.
I have just about driven Buck crazy, wanting to go see the dead roses every night after work. He is such a good sport about touring the garden, every day. But even he has gotten caught up in the rose drama. The roses are roaring back. I am thinking I might need to hard prune my shrub roses every 2 or 3 years. To force basil growth. Truth be told, my roses were rangy and overgrown. I did not prune them back hard. Maybe I was too old to be tough on them. Our past winter was decisive. Nature may have done for my roses what I needed to do, and didn’t.
A the dawn of the age of 64, I am learning so much I never knew about nature, roses, and the color orange.