For the Roses

Joseph's Coat climbing rose

Yesterday evening I took my good friend (who also happens to be my tenant) Christy, and we went up the road and across the creek to our friend Shari’s house. Shari is a wonderful, albeit fairly new friend of ours. We have only known her for just about a year, but love her already as though we have know her all our lives.

Shari has very beautiful and well-established old rose gardens and has spent many an hour coaxing their beauty to its full potential. Shari can call her roses all by name, and even describe the flowers and scent in detail even when the plants are dormant. Her landhold is much larger then the front garden of this farm (where I have most of my roses) and her gardens and planting are more extensive and open. Her gardens also many container plantings, whimsical touches and many colorful birds. I will never get tired of visiting with her and looking at them. She always blesses us with a car load of new things to plant and handfuls of cuttings from her roses. Oddly enough, Shari does have an old and deep connection to the front garden of our farm, and has spent much time here in the past, so I guess that somehow makes her family already. The whim of fate would have it that she was a good friend of Natalie, the tenant who rented this farm for many years before I owned it. She and Natalie, I have heard tell, spent a lot of time being “partners in crime” at all the nurseries in town.

Natalie grew a rose garden here. Not only did she grow them, but she was one of those crazy “rose people” who could actually cross-breed them and make new colors.I bow down in awe and respect of people who can do this. I’m good with plants, and have even been accused of possessing a “green thumb” by some, but I’m not so good as to be able to create new colors and types. Natalie could take a brown twig and stick it into a pot of dirt, and I swear it would start to sprout roots while she carried it into the house! The garden she had in the front of this farm was so astounding, people would actually pull over and stop and get out of their cars and stand and stare at it. I have an old photo of it in it’s full glory that I pull out and look at whenever I want to shame myself into getting the front garden in shape every spring – “see what it USED looked like when SHE was here!”- I tell myself. It was what you call a classic “cottage garden” with mostly old English and musk type roses, and completely run wild with thousands of other types of beautiful flowers. It was a riot of colors and textures, and although it seemed random, I know Natalie knew exactly where each and every plant was placed and what the outcome of the planting would be. She was an artist, and flowering plants were her living palette. To this day I whisper a silent thank-you to her for leaving the soil in the garden in such good condition, it has remained this way for this many years because of her hard work and knowledge. To my amazement, the soil even held up to the “tenant from hell” who occupied the house for four years after Natalie, and who let two large unruly shepherd crosses “landscape” for him in the front yard. It took me two solid weeks just to fill in all the holes when I first got here. So needless to say I had to start the garden all over again from scratch, and spent the last five years just getting the “bones” down of my own design and waiting for it to establish itself.

I always had it in my mind that roses were a very difficult things to grow and care for. I was never brave enough to even try until I met Natalie. She assured me that the only real trick to growing roses, just like anything else living that you want to work with, was just to get some, love them, and that they would teach me just exactly what they wanted from me. I have since bought a cloner and learned how to use it, and now have a small collection of my own favorites (that grows larger every year.) I even happily surprised myself at one point the first time I recognized a rose I was familiar with in someone else’s garden. I like to think that at that same moment in time – somewhere out there whereever she is – Natalie looked up and smiled, and did not even know why.

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