A Perfect Rose, An Imperfect Gardener

Though I pride myself on having a green thumb, I’ve had a number of notable failures in the garden – chief among them my difficulties with roses. Aside from the fool-proof knockout series (a bland thing if ever there was one), I’ve yet to have a successful rose endeavor.

When I was a kid, I begged and pleaded with my parents to order a few roses from Jackson and Perkins. Their catalogs were practically porn for my floral-fixation, and I narrowed it down to a selection of six rose plants, each with a fancy name and pedigree. A few weeks later they arrived in a big box – monstrous things that were alien-like in their bare-rooted form. The planting instructions called for them to be soaked/submerged in water for a few hours prior to planting, so I filled the bathtub with lukewarm water. Ahh yes, the brain of a child. I don’t recall the mess that was made because it was so bad I likely put it from my mind. While they soaked (and left their dirt rings on the tub) I set about preparing six enormous holes in the front and side gardens. Visions of dazzling rose bushes filled my head, with blooms that spilled forth with abundant floriferous vociferousness.

I amended the soil and dug deeply, with ample manure and generous dashes of bone meal. I left a mound at the bottom of each hole, as per the elaborate directions included with them, and somehow hauled the beasts out of the tub and back down to their new homes. Gently, I fanned out the roots over the mounds, then backfilled and firmly secured the plants with crowns at ground level. A small basin designed to catch water surrounded each plant, and I watered them in well. I could almost sense them growing, and I stood there when the last one was in, just waiting for some sign of growth to occur. Again, the mind of a child: ever-hopeful, ever-antsy, ever-anticipating.

Only the two in the sunniest spots did much. In fact, they were the only ones that survived that first year. Fantasies of armloads of rose blooms spilling out of baskets and bouquets were left as just that. The pink and yellow and white varieties I so wanted to see in person didn’t make it. Only those two stalwart red plants survived the winter. They did well enough, and the next year I did manage to coax a few blooming spells from them, but their upkeep and insect control were too taxing to be enjoyed, and their spindly form left much to be desired. I gave up, and roses left my life until I met Andy.

This year he’s trying the variety you see here. Lightly fragrant, and beautifully shaded with an almost lavender blush, it’s a beautiful specimen. I just hope it’s not too fussy.

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