Friday, April 23, 2010

Missing the Rose

“Mourning the Rose” was my first title for this post. But I thought better of it. After all, it’s a plant I’m missing, not a person or a pet. But the back yard seems empty without the climbing rose. For 20 years it’s shaded and delighted us. I’d always show off the tiny trellis dwarfed by the thick woody stems. I thought it showed what an able gardener I was. What it really revealed was how little I knew about climbing roses.

Its name was “New Dawn,” and when I bought it I still thought I could turn our yard into an English cottage garden. The astilbe, peony and other plants I bought at the same time never did very well. But the rose took to our hard clay soil and flourished for almost two decades.

I’m not enough of a gardener to understand what went wrong. Did I prune it too much or too little? Did it get a disease? Was it parched to oblivion in the drought two years ago? I’ll never know. But it’s hard not to see this as a metaphor. Did the rose flourish when our children were young and scampering about? Is its passing proof that life is passing me by? Nonsense, my practical self tells me. Something got it, and it’s gone. Plant another one, move on.

But about this time of year the long thorny boughs would be greening up and curling around the posts of the pergola, the buds would be full to bursting, the little bump-out roof of our kitchen would be groaning with the weight of all this bliss and all this blossom and I’d be looking forward to the rose’s biggest, grandest bloom at the end of May. Instead, I’m snapping off woody canes and throwing them on the brush pile in the back of the yard. I’m missing the rose.

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