The forsythia is blooming so it’s time to prune the roses and plant some new ones. Of course, the forsythia starting blooming just as a whole wad of snow fell so I’m not entirely confident I can use this old gardener’s rule this year. Never mind, I’m hauling out the compost, the loppers, the shovels and the bonemeal and hoping for the best!
Have I mentioned that my English friend Fiona insists that one must prune one’s roses as if they are your worst enemy’s? Your worst enemy’s roses or your worst enemies themselves? I’m never quite sure so I just whack away scattering thorny stems and curled leaves–and not a little blood–all over the garden. Then, for respite and reassurance that I am not just a destroyer of worlds, I clean out the dahlia bed. I hope to plant all the tubers–35 of them last count–by the weekend. We have established that I don’t winter over my dahlias and every year when I dig out a perfectly healthy, firm, mandrake-like tuber I feel just awful. But then I hit a ooey gooey clump and I keep digging and tossing.
I ripped out all the weeds and bits and bobs from the vegetable garden last week. I am starting from seed this year and already I am sure that nothing will come up. If there were ever a metaphor for my gardening style this would be it. I run headlong and heedless through the veg patch adding compost, poking seeds far to close together, throwing the radishes in with the carrots and arugula, messily hacking away at the oregano which has taken over far too much real estate. I plant too many tomatoes cheek by jowl and then I have to thin them out mercilessly. I end up with such a jumble of nameless green that I lose perspective and run out to buy a bunch of starter plants. By mid-July it’s become a teeny tiny Jurassic Park without Dr. Ian Malcolm’s science of the obvious: “Life finds a way” .
Right, back to the new roses. David Austin Roses has been my go-to source for years. Currently in their fifth or sixth season standing up to groundhogs, frost, snow and dog poop are The Ancient Mariner, Lady of Shalott, Boscobel, Gertrude Jekyll, Gentle Hermione and Sweet Juliet. I choose most of the flowers I plant by scent. Happily theses roses are
as beautiful as they are fragrant and they flower repeatedly making them perfect for cutting. Now they are joined by another Boscobel (the scent is redolent of pear and myrrh), Wollerton Old Hall , Harlow Carr, Abraham Darby and Lady Emma Hamilton. That’s the plan at any rate. The new kids are currently huddled in their bare root state in a cool corner of the basement. They are going in this weekend right after I wrestle the rampant mint and aggressive shasta daisy out of the ground.
If you could see my gardens now you might think I have awfully lofty goals, but I have faith. Faith is really the only thing that keeps gardeners going, isn’t it? Faith in our ability, our soil and our plants to return each year and remind us that we are only stewards, helpmates at best. It is a small miracle each year when thorny canes leaf out, the red, feathery-tipped peony spears push through or the nearly transparent green of sweet pea stems unfurl and twine their way through the fence. But, oh how that small miracle restores a gardener’s faith once again.