The Thorns

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the rose.” -Anne Bronte

It’s December and being the typical human (specifically, a human in America) I want precisely that which I can not have. I want warm weather plants. I want summer flowers. I want ROSES!

*As I say that, I am channeling my inner Rosalind Russell, because I watched Auntie Mame while on my brief blogging holiday hiatus. I am spectacularly melodramatic at the moment.*

Back to ROSES! I, of all people, have no business growing roses. I’m a fairly lazy gardener. I love that by November, I can pull out all of the old, sad looking tomato plants and throw them in the compost pile. I don’t have to fix any problems or try to remember if they bloom on old or new wood next year. I just toss them and go. Dave handles all of the long-term plants that require commitment, such as the orchard trees and the berries. I, with my short attention span, like things that don’t stay too long (like good house guests and windy days on the central coast.) So why in the world do I want roses? I blame Michael Pollan.

The whole idea for roses came when I was reading Michael Pollan’s book, Second Nature, while visiting my friends Dan and Zach, last year. He had all the same problems with roses that I do: they are labor intensive, disease prone and down right gaudy. There is not nearly enough return for the amount of work they require. Then he went on to say that he had discovered antique roses and they are everything one may want in a rose. They are more disease resistant, less laborious and have a demure sort of beauty. And because it’s Michael Pollan, who has never steered me wrong, I believed him. I decided to add antique roses to my future garden.

Moving on to the second part of the saga, I had no intention of buying heirloom roses until we moved in. Not that we are ever-moving in but if, on the off-chance we do get to live in our house we have toiled over, I am going to plant roses. So there Dave and I were, at the National Heirloom Exposition, perusing the vendors and exhibits, soaking up ideas, when we had a moment of brilliance. Actually, I think it was Dave who had the moment of brilliance but I was right there for support. We decided to plant a period garden. The “period” in question, would be the era in which our house was originally built: 1936. We spent the rest of the Expo seeking out ideas for that garden. At some point, we ended up in the booth for an antique rose society, discussing our idea for the period garden. The ladies were thrilled (some of them could have been a feature in the garden, by nature of their birth year) and set out to find me the perfect rose. They hunted through their stock of roses and found me two that are easy(er) care with a magnificent scent. Modern roses have nothing on the roses of antiquity, as far as scent is concerned. Since I’m a plant addict, I bought them. I couldn’t resist, even though I knew I had no place to put them.

We ended up driving home with HM Felicia pb 1928 and HT Red Talisman rp 1931, buckled into the car.


So there you go. I have roses. I’m not sure what is going to become of them if we aren’t in the house by spring. I’m even more concerned if we do move in and I do plan them because then I have to take care of them. But one bloomed this summer. Felicia put forth two gorgeous blooms that smelled like one imagines a rose should smell. We could smell them from six feet away.

I hope the promise of their beauty is enough to keep me interested in their high maintenance antics because today, in the middle of winter, I really want roses and I’m willing to deal with the thorns.


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