Roses: you have finally got me.
I’ve never exactly been your biggest fan. Yes, I spent hours of my childhood mixing up fallen rose petal potions, but actually, I’ve never once in my life bought a single one of you.
You’ve always just been things I’ve inherited with a garden. Things to curse at when accidently grabbing one of your thorns or when you decide to somehow weave yourself through my hair as I lovingly (begrudgingly?) prune you.
And frankly, you are just so finickity. Always wanting feeding, deadheading, pruning, staking, mulching, cutting back off the lawn…you name it. And after all of that time-consuming attention, how do you repay me? With black spot and aphids, that’s how. Honestly, who’d have you?
Well, me, as it turns out. June 2021 was the month that they actually, truly, finally worked for me.
Our four acres here were smothered in roses when we arrived. No rose garden as such, but every single bed, in sun or in shade, contained multiple roses. Shrub roses, climbing roses, ramblers, rugosas, singles, doubles, you name it. And if I explain that roses are the number one favourite deer food, plus that we are on very thin, sandy soil, you’ll perhaps start to understand my intolerance of the hair tangling experiences.
Every rose here is bare from 95cm down. Not a leaf in sight; barely any bark left on some. And I think years and years of sheep manure application was the primary cause for us barely being able to see any flowers at all when we arrived; just the odd peeping flower above flourishing nettles.
But one day this month – a sad day for me – I went out into the garden in search of solace. It was pouring with rain – had been all day – but the garden drew me outside. I wanted to feel its comfort embrace me and for my teardrops to be diluted and washed away by the rain.
As I left the house, I instinctively picked up my camera. To distract me? To focus my mind on seeking out the beauty on a sad, grey day? Whatever the reason, it worked.
And yes, it was the roses that brought me back on an even keel.
Oh, they were beautiful. The perfect flowers, the brown, aging flowers; the mass display of flowers, the single, solitary bud; they all just sang to me, soothed me, uplifted me.
These incredible natural art forms, all sparkling in the rain. How can one be sad for too long when surrounded by these wonderous, sweet-scented, little packaged-up things of beauty?
Each individual flower seemed to be aware of my heightened emotions, shedding a few tears of its own. Each glowing in the moist air, coloured petals as saturated and concentrated as ever.
Each reached out and grasped the opportunity to convert my energy from negative to positive. Would I really have been so drawn in – felt so engaged – had I been going about an average old day?
And having shared that intense experience with the roses, my new connection to them remains long after my sadness has waned.
Perhaps one also appreciates the less ubiquitous things in life. One perfectly located climbing rose, spreading far and wide, high above the deer line, so much more satisfying to me than a hundred regimented shrubs.
A single native rose weaving its way through an oak tree bordering the farmland, infinitely more appealing to my eye than a highly bred, dual-coloured, stunted specimen.
I had muddied up the good and the bad of roses, but can now see their true value for what it is. It’s all about working out what works for you.
I very much hope I’ve retained much of the former identity of the garden – we still have dozens of roses which shape its look and feel. But by selecting out the poor performers, the now misplaced as the garden has evolved and the ones I simply don’t, subjectively, like, it feels we have achieved such a happy outcome.
It remains to be seen if I still curse them next prune time, but for the moment, I seem to be drifting along in a much happier vein, unable to stop singing, “raindrops on roses…and whiskers on kittens”.