Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Roses


 I rode into my life as  a gardener on a rose petal; in my twenties all I wanted to grow were roses and sweetpeas .Sweetpea culitivation was mastered quickly once I learned that in Southern California seeds must be sown in fall, for like edible peas they are a cool-season crop. I don't remember exactly where I planted them (2 houses ago) or which variety they were -probably the most common off the Ferry Morse seed rack- but I do remember the excitement of success with the first plants I ever grew from seed. Victory.
 The path to rose mastery was longer , with numerous  potholes and changes of direction. In the early 80's I read the classic "Green Thoughts" by the fabulously opinionated Elenor Perenyi, and the chapter on roses revealed to me the world of the heirlooms.  At the time , I worked in a garden center..none of these roses she spoke of -the mysterious noisettes, bourbons, portlands,chinas  etc, were in our inventory. Our growers didn't have them, our customers didn't ask for them.Everyone wanted Double Delight, Mr Lincoln or the abysmal Sterling Silver.  My first experience with mail order ..on Elenors reccomentdation I sent for the catalog of 'Roses of Yesterday and Today' . There werer no images or even drawings inside the catalog, only a detailed description-pay your money,take your chances. The front cover displayed the only photo, always a massive bouquet  with a delicate  tissue paper overlay that identified the flowers.I bought a half dozen, planted them and then I moved.The rose bed that once held Henri Martin, Jaques Cartier , Reinne Victoria, Gruss an Achen and Helen Traubel among others is now a slab of concrete.
 At one time I think I owned 70 roses here in my small suburban garden , removing more and more of the lawn every year to squeeze in another one or two . Now, it is the roses I am removing. Since last summer I dug up Graham Thomas , Iceberg, Julia Child, Tamora, Daybreaker, and Mary Rose. Some of these werer 'lemons' some had been here a decade or more and were in decline.

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