My mom had a green thumb. I mean, a really green thumb. She was one of those people who always had something interesting or out of the ordinary growing either outside or inside the house.
You know the type… friends would bring her sickly looking plants of theirs and a month later she”d give it back to them, twice as green, twice as big and twice as perky. She seemed to take an extra pride in growing things that you aren”t supposed to be able to grow. For years, she proudly showed off her large, indoor lemon tree, (in a very northern state) and all the lemons it produced. Indoor lemon tree, did I mention indoors?
There were some Sundays after church out front, that lines of ladies would actually form wanting to ask her something or ”ruther about some kind of plant issue.
She loved roses though and she had rose bushes growing in a number of spots and groupings around the yard. It”s hard to think back to a summer day in my childhood without a memory whiff of rose scent passing by my nose, or the sight of a mixed cutting of roses on our dining room table.
Mom passed away a few years ago. And for a couple of years afterward, I”d see something in my own yard not doing well and without thinking started to walk towards the phone to call her about it. The year after she passed, we had a section of side yard that my wife and I needed to “do some landscaping” with, and I thought that a rose garden would be a wonderfully dandy landscaping idea.
I mean, it wasn”t exactly going to be a memorial garden or anything, we just thought a rose garden would be gorgeous… the sights… the smells… the cuttings. Just the thing and a fitting tribute to mom. She”d approve and be proud we thought.
Well, after a few years of efforts, surprises, and ah-ha moments, I”ve come to my own set of conclusions about rose gardening having a go at it on my own:
- Roses are not landscaping. Roses are a HOBBY. Marigolds? That”s landscaping. Azaleas, hostas, day lilies, yep, all landscaping, pretty much just plant ”em. But roses? Definitely a HOBBY. You cannot forget roses or they will remind you very quickly that you”ve forgotten them.
- You don”t spend a season growing roses, you spend a season DEFENDING roses. Bugs, disease, fungus… thrips (huh? wha?)… black spot… root rot… blight… japanese beetles, you name it, it seems like every living thing hates roses, except humans. Maybe it”s jealousy. But you”re regularly, like once or twice a week, spraying, applying, picking, tossing, adding… SOMETHING.
- You DO make new friends as gardening centers and home centers get to know you by FIRST NAME. Yeah, this goes along with number 2, as you are continually buying some kind of chemical, nutrient, spray, additive, fertilizer, and pretty much all of which you”re probably better off not knowing really what”s inside. But I do enjoy the happy smiles and waves I get from the center employees, along with a “HI JT! Back Again??”
- People are constantly asking about your SCRATCHED forearms. The durn things are full of thorns. All you”re trying to do is take care of your babies and all they want to do… is cut you. Turns out, that gloves only cover your hands and roses intuitively know how to go for the visible parts of your forearms.
- The gardening season just got LONGER. You are doing gardening work long BEFORE the season and LONG after. There”s pre-season pruning, post season cutbacks, off-season fertilizing, mulching, oh and “diebacks” is actually a rose word thing.
- At some point, you will actually take time to READ something about roses. I”m pretty sure I never had to read anything about any other plants other than that popsicle stick thing that comes in the pot telling you to plant it so much apart and water it. But roses… I actually now own books. I have rose websites bookmarked. Usually it involves that “defending them” thing and normally the search to read something starts off with me uttering the words, “Now what?”
Nicely though, Dover and most of Delaware is located in Zone 7a of plant hardiness. That means, our lows aren”t too low and our highs aren”t that high so I”m told almost every kind of rose can be grown in Delaware. There are times during some extra warm days in the dead of summer that the roses declare they ain”t coming out to play. But for the most part, Delaware is a great place to grow roses. Hey, even a real estate agent like me can do it…
I”m sure mom is watching down and has, no doubt, enjoyed giggling about my trials, tribulations and grumblings of rose gardening. But you know what? Now that I can cut fresh roses and bring them in to my wife with regularity, it”s great to have her squeal, “OHHH, FOR ME???” rather than the previous norm of “Uh-oh, whatya do this time?”