We have roses. We’re not supposed to have roses—it’s only the end of frelling April—and we don’t have many, but we do have roses. And they’re not even the so-called species* roses which are often the early ones, but proper overbred garden roses. Peter’s is even an Austin for pity’s sake, although she is on the front wall of the mews, and that courtyard is a heat sink, but I’m used to Austins in Hampshire starting up in June. My two, Sophie’s Perpetual and my beloved Old Blush, AKA (among other things) Parson’s Monthly, are certainly human bred roses, but they are also known for starting early and going on and on.** But THIS early?*** Never mind . . . I’m not complaining.
* Botanical nomenclature makes me lose the will to live really fast. I acknowledge the need for precision, including that everyone talking about this plant rather than that plant can feel sure they’re all on the same page blah blah blah blah blah blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH but I don’t want to hear about it. I have one perfectly practical, working response to plants, in a catalogue, on a web site or at a nursery: (a) roses = want^; (b) shiny = want; (c) meh = don’t want. I don’t care what you call them^^. ‘Species’ roses, or ‘species’ most things that have a large cultivated-garden presence, are, for my money, and you purists out there look away now, the ones that haven’t been endlessly messed with by plant breeders and look more or less as they did when some stalwart explorer first found them growing out of a hillside or a cliff top or a river margin or the roof of the local priestess’ temple and brought them home in the hopes of material gain.
^ This being why I have to chain myself to Wolfgang’s steering wheel when we drive past the one semi-local rose nursery: when you have a small garden you can do a lot of damage in a rose nursery even if you only go there once a year.+
+ Penelope, Harriet and I are planning a field trip that will involve passing that nursery but Harriet is driving. This is ostensibly because Harriet of the three of us minds driving the least and she has a much nicer cleaner car than Wolfgang.# But I haven’t told them about the chaining myself to the steering wheel tactic or they might insist on my driving for the entertainment value.##
# People given the choice of firing squad or death by dog hair inhalation will probably choose the firing squad. Even if I remove the dog beds and sweep out the back seat it’s still a Guinness Book of World Records situation back there.
## Most of my friends have a strange sense of humour, yes. That’s why we get along, innit?
^^ Except insofar as it pertains to whether or not I can grow the sucker. If it’s going to get eight foot tall and is frost tender, no, I can’t.+
+ Which is why the one fabulously successful stephanotis floribunda# I once grew in my office at the old house and which was significantly bigger than I am when I had to move it into town, croaked the first winter. Both of us couldn’t fit in the cottage kitchen at the same time, and I didn’t get it indoors soon enough one night.##
# Botanical nomenclature AAAAAAAUGH. It’s a lot harder to avoid in England, however. You Americans can call it Madagascar jasmine, I think.
## I killed another little one this winter I have no idea why. It had been doing pretty well, I thought, on the kitchen windowsill, and then it suddenly said, bored now, and died. I’ll probably get another one. . . . ~
~ And I think I haven’t told you about the Hibiscus Forest. Peter had a very, very, very, very badly neglected hibiscus houseplant that I tried to kind of fatten up for the chop so I could get some cuttings off it before/when I pruned it because I suspected the pruning would kill it. It did. I had about eight viable cuttings which to my total astonishment struck= which I therefore had to pot on and figure out what to do with. First winter they all fit on the same windowsill, no problem. And then the gardening books always tell you to put your houseplants outdoors for the summer because all indoor plants are ipso facto dying== and this will make them happy and strong to survive another winter on your windowsill.
The hibiscus cuttings hated being outdoors. I kept trying to find the hibiscus sweet spot and they kept saying, no, this isn’t it, waaaaaaah, we want murky daylight through glass, we want house spiders and dust, we want dog hair. I lost three of them. I thought I was going to lose a fourth, but it was still semi-clinging to life by early last autumn when I gave up and brought them indoors long before frost would become an issue. All five of them have shot up and out over the winter and I’m going to have to pot them on and . . . you know, common-or-garden-variety hibiscus get kind of large.
= Ie grew roots and looked like living.
== Although if you want to get technical about it everything alive is dying.
** I’ve told you before that in a mild winter Old Blush will have a flower out for Christmas.^ I haven’t had Sophie in town long enough, and at the old house she was in a dumb place and shut down flowering with the majority.
^ Mythology states that Thomas Moore’s Last Rose of Summer was an Old Blush. Mind you, what exactly is going on in that poem is, perhaps fortunately, a trifle obscure. If he’s really tearing up a rose so it doesn’t have to be alooone, he’s a dipstick with a tendency to vandalism and it’s no wonder he doesn’t have any friends.
*** Apologies to the forum member whom I told quellingly she would not see roses when she was over here the end of April. I hope there are banks, walls and gazebos of blooming roses wherever you are.
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