Thursday, August 26, 2010

Survivor: The Dark Rose

If I were to hold a contest inviting all of my lovelies to enter various categories—hardiest, most neglected, best tended, most beautiful, most perfect, and best survivor—,
the  winner would come from the last category, Survivor, and it would have to be this dark red rose, whose name has been lost and forgotten. She is a either a Weeks cultivar or a Jackson and Perkins purchased probably 4 years ago at Bath Nursery in Ft. Collins. Looking rather tattered because of the leaf cutter bees and the aged bloom whose weakened stem droops under the weight from the lawn sprinkler, Dark Rose has proven to be a survivor. In order, however, to hold the title, Dark Rose must survive the harsh, dry Colorado winter. We tend to get very early fall frosts and late spring frosts, and very cold temperatures, especially right after the first of the year. Some years we have scant snow; other years we will have blizzards and snow that will stay on the ground for months. Perhaps the worst winter condition here are the very dry winter days. Hard on our skin, hard on our garden plants, hard on newly planted trees, the dryness takes its toll. While we can moisturize our skin and drink plenty of water, we often forget to do important winter watering, which is a real pain. The automatic sprinkler system has been winterized, the hoses drained and rolled up, and we have devoted our spare time to in door winter projects.

But I digress. I wanted to tell Dark Rose’s brief little story. She is a transplant. We moved to this Garden Spot about 18 months ago, leaving behind a well established and well tended garden that included about a dozen roses collected, nurtured, loved, and admired for years. My favorites were the David Austins for their prolific bloom and sweet, sweet perfume. The last rose that I added was Dark Red, a hybrid Tea Rose, costly, not a Walmart special. We had a nice collections of iris and great collection of Oaks’ day lilies. We also had a small assortment of hand-me-downs, plants starts given to us by friends and bits and pieces of green that I collected my dad’s garden before we sold his home. The hens and chicks we transplanted from the old house remind us of  a dear friend who suddenly died. He had proudly dug the clump from the parent group at his front door. I had to have piece of Mike’s hens and chicks here, too. We dug most of the iris and all of the day lilies. All survived the winter and bloomed in abundance this summer.

But the roses. Oh my lovely roses. I decided to leave them for the new owners to enjoy, mostly because they were so large and so well established and planted rather closely together, but we dug Dark Rose because she was young and small.

I told my husband “Get a healthy root ball. They don’t like their roots exposed.”  As he dug and then lifted the plant from the ground, the dry soil around the roots just crumbled away, exposing not just tender shoots, but the main roots as well. None-the-less, we planted Dark Rose at the edge of the back patio. We watered and fed and watched all spring and most of the summer. Looking for the tiny bit of new life that had just broken through the bark before we dug her up in early spring, we kept waiting, but the sprout never matured. I gave up. I told my husband that we might as well dig her up, but he cautioned that we should give her some time. And then she sprouted a new bud, which grabbed onto life and ran with it. Dark Rose had lived.

She has had her trials. Just as she was about to display her first bloom, I knocked the delicate branch with the hose, breaking it off at the base. Another branch sprouted and Dark Rose has bloomed all summer, one gorgeous dark red bloom after another.

Her garden companions did not fare as well. We listed the house the end of May and closed the end of June. We were quite lucky to sell so quickly in a horrible housing market and in a very small town. The roses were at their height of bloom, and I was sure the new owners would tend them and love them as I did.

I dove by the old house the other day. The rose garden was gone. No more to be said, except to say, if you do sell a home and have the opportunity, strip it clean of your cherished and loved plants, for seldom do new owners share our desire and need to nurture a garden. I am glad that the new owners will take good care of the home and they will make it theirs; they paid for it, they can do what they want. I have to keep telling myself that and then I see Dark Rose and I smile.

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