Coming Up Roses

the-rose-garden.jpgIt was 9 degrees below zero when I drove to work this morning.  I could tell.  The crunch of the snow underfoot was deafening.  I had to keep blinking to keep my eyelashes from freezing to my face.  Though I had all manner of winter gear piled on, my face stung from the cold.  The corgis always dawdle in the driveway before they pony up to be loaded into the Suburban.  I am ordinarily very patient about this.  I like that they have a happy life-and their happy life means a minimum of interference from me.  I am ok with hanging out until they are ready to be loaded up for work.  Loaded up?  Corgis have really short legs.  I give the both of them a big leg up.  I tell myself that loading and unloading two fifty pound dogs twice every day helps keep me in good shape.  I treasure this illusion!  This morning, their dawdling annoyed me.  It was too cold to be outside.

Milo.jpgOver the course of the day I downloaded scads of pictures on my Iphone to my computer.  A day when it is really too cold to be outdoors is a really rare day.  A day confined to the inside is not my most favorite day, but confining circumstances can make for some unexpected pleasure. Pictures that I took in June of this past year-I was looking at them for the first time.  The roses-how beautiful they were.

griffith-Buck-roses.jpgThere are those gardeners who would choose to pass by a planting of roses.  Too much trouble to grow.  Too much a symbol of the history of gardens.  No doubt rose bushes are just about the most ungainly and unattractive shrubs ever to grace the earth.  But I would not want my garden to do without them.

griffith-buck-roses.jpgI only grow a few roses.  Carefree Beauty, and Earthsong, bred by Griffith Buck.  Jeannie Le Joie-a miniature climbing rose.  Eden-a large flowered climbing rose.  And the English bred shrub rose Sally Holmes.

miniature-climbing-roses.jpgThe most of the month of June is a delight to this gardener.  The roses play no small part in this.  I love the flowers and the fragrance.  On a freezing January day that keeps me inside, the memory of the roses comfort me.

miniature-climbing-roses.jpgthe roses in June

roses-in-June.jpgCarefree Beauty

june-roses.jpgThe roses in June fuel my love for the garden, year round.  On this astonishingly cold and discouraging day, I like the idea that my 2014 gardening season will be coming up roses.

rose-bud.jpgA rose is a rose

rose-season.jpgEverything will be coming up roses.

True Romance

carefree-beauty-rose.jpgMy landscape and garden occupies a lot and a half in a very urban setting.  Pontiac, Michigan, to be exact.  I do not have a villa in the south of France, or in Italy.  I do not live in California, or England.  I am the head gardener for a small property in the upper midwest.  I live in a city.  I can hear the motorcycles and the ambulances-and the music from the party next door.  I am not complaining.  I like where I live.  I love my house.  I treasure my garden.  But that moment in early June when my modest patch of roses begin to bloom is a moment that I truly treasure.  The roses coming into bloom is all about the romance of the garden.

June-blooming-roses.jpgMost of my landscape is primarily confined to five plants.  Yews. boxwoods, arborvitae, magnolias-and lawn.  This is a landscape that that I am able to properly keep up.  This is a landscape that is friendly to my dogs.  It is a landscape about order and structure. My wild cards are few-by this I mean, manageable. I cannot come home to chaos.  I need healthy, first and foremost.  I need tended, secondarily. Thirdly, I need beauty.  My work life is such that I want peace, quiet, and delight when I go home.  But I have a few places for perennials.  Perennials-loads of work.  I have one small patch over which I am willing to fret weekly.  But then, there are the roses.

June-blooming-roses.jpgNo other plant speaks to the romance of the garden in the way  that roses do.  The blooms are beautiful, and fragrant.  When they are happy, they bloom profusely.  So many florists get instructions to send roses to a loved one for a birthday, for Mother’s Day, for Valentine’s day- and for good reason.  The rose speaks to romance.   My corgis know what it means when I say-let’s go see the roses. They race around to the rose garden.  When Buck brings home roses for me, I am a very happy girlfriend.  Even Buck is enjoying the the June garden moment that celebrates the roses.  The climbing roses-the miniature Jeannie LeJoie and the climber Eden.  The shrub roses-Carefree Beauty, and Sally Holmes.

roses.jpgThis small rose garden has a lot to say right now.  I feel no need to expound on which roses are good, and which roses are bad.  There are lots and lots of roses to choose from.  The David Austin shrub roses.  The knockout roses.  The species roses.  The tea roses.  The grandifloras.  The tree roses.  Blanc Double de Coubert-the fragrance is astonishing.    Try some.  Try any of them that appeal to you.  If they fail, figure out why.  No garden should be without a patch of roses.  No plant endows a garden with more romance than a rose.


Why is the romance so important?  Romance has everything to do with what it means to be a person.  Relationships make the world go round- this includes garden relationships.  Any expression of love is an expression well worth making.   Anyone who gardens expends a lot of thought, time and money to making a natural environment that is beautiful.  Tell me if you think there is anything more romantically beautiful than a rose in bloom.  My advice?  Plant a few roses.

roses.jpgMy work life right now is busy-as in urgent.  Every day, all day long, I am working.  But every day I go home, and Buck and I eventually meet in the rose garden.  It is a fitting end to the day.  The view of the roses in bloom-beautiful.

climbing-rose-Jeannie LeJoie.jpgAs much as I design with structure in mind, I value those plants that tease, breathe, and enchant.  Roses are the Sarah Bernhardt’s of the garden.  Demanding? oh yes.  Were I to fall in line behind the demands of any plant, roses would rank high on my list.    Rob and Meg came for dinner night before last.  They went round to see the roses. Rob is right.  No plant speaks to romance better than a rose.

June.jpgMy working life is not perfectly organized.  The cold and rainy April, and the late frosts have put me way behind.  I have lots of annual plantings ahead of me-10 days worth-at least.  Every season is what it is.  Last night I went to bed at 7:30, and slept until 6:30 am.    Coming home to the roses representing-delightful.

Carefree-Beauty.jpgCarefree Beauty-this is a shrub rose that was hybridized by Griffith Buck.  I love the big blowsy pink blooms.  I like its hardiness.  Its disease resistance.  I especially appreciate that fresh scent I know as June roses in bloom.

the-garden.jpgThe corgis may not be tall enough to really have a good view of the roses.  But they understand about moments.  Every night, they get to that rose garden ahead of Buck and I.

roses.jpgTwo dogs and two people-we end the day in the company of the roses.  My very small rose garden figures in a very big way in my life.  I don’t mind the effort it takes to cultivate roses.  In my opinion, a garden needs to evoke romance.

So So Ho Hum Roses

I don’t really know why I would post about my roses at home right now.  Except that I seem to be wanting to whine about them.  Humor me, please.  There is nothing to talk about, really.  That April frost that wiped out 12 trees worth of magnolia buds went on to wreak havoc on the rose buds that were already coming on in March.  The bloom is sporadic, undersized, unremarkable, and unthinkably unsatisfying.

Many buds were frosted off.  Right now, the smaller than usual Earthsong roses are blooming.  OK, they are trying to bloom.  The flowers are puny, and damaged-streaked with rot.  They came on fast, then got frozen, then came on again when we had that spell over 80 degrees.  They must be exhausted from that roller coaster ride, and they so look it.

dwarf climbing roses

The Jeannie le Joie climbing roses are always early, but this year-extra early.  They were in full bloom that May day it was 96 degrees.  They instantly started to fade.  How is it a gardener can wait for an entire year for the coming of the roses, and watch them roast the moment they open?  Few things in life are fair.  Fewer things in the garden are fair.     

The Sally Holmes are just beginning to bloom.  Just so so, like all of the rest of the roses.  They look belabored.  Out of breath. Stressed.  Dry.  Small-you get the picture.  Every night Buck and I go up there to see the roses.  There is not so much of a party going on there.   I have to avert my eyes.  Yes, my disappointment is acute.  

The asparagus made a strong show early on.  The roses are so thick now, I cannot get in there to cut them anymore.  The fronds are already 6 feet tall. Thank heavens something is doing well here.    

Almost every rose has blackspot-lovely. I am not so often sarcastic in print, so I want to be clear.  Blackspot on roses in May-anything but lovely. This state of affairs is truly unfair.  I really hate coming home to rose leaves dropping from blackspot. What else is there to do, but pick them up, dispose of them, and hope for a better future?   I will say that the boxwood in this side garden is gorgeous-no problem there with early heat and late frost.  Those plants that don’t get ruffled much by trouble-I like them.  I very much like those plants that persevere, stay the course, and endure.     

Will I get a second flush of blooms, as the first flush was so puny?  One can only hope.  Having never experienced a winter and early spring like I have just had, I am at a loss to predict what will happen next.  I do not think any person lives long enough to experience an entire weather cycle.  My roses in their present state-a new experience.  One experience you can count on-whatever trouble is in the air, the roses will catch it.   

 I am imagining that all of my trees and plants that were laid low from the radically atypical late winter and early spring weather will roar back over the course of the summer.  True or not, the idea comforts me.  How are your roses?



At A Glance: Sunny



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