God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. - JM Barrie

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. – JM Barrie

I remember my roses. They grew in the back garden of my first house. I started with four bushes, hybrid teas in red and orange, yellow and pink. I thought I’d have enough color to make a pretty centerpiece for my dining room.

Roses are picky, demanding creatures.

They need sun, but not too much; warmth without extreme heat; and endless weeding, fertilizing, and pruning to produce enough flowers for continuous bouquets. I pushed my twenty-seven-year-old self around the back yard every weekend, my actions governed by a checklist from the local rose society. But no matter what I tried, bless my heart, I couldn’t coax enough flowers from four measly bushes.

I decided to buy more roses.

The rose society had a sale. “Check everything you want,” they crowed. “You’ll get maybe a fifth of them.” I took them at their word and ticked everything that caught my eye. When I turned in my order sheet, I didn’t even tally the total. I’d get five or six of them, right?


I got EVERYTHING. I came home to twenty new bare root bushes, scraggly things crying to be planted. The rose society folks dropped those things off and laughed all the way to the bank.

I wasn’t very smart at twenty-seven.

Undeterred, I dug up half of my back yard to create a new rose bed. I crafted perfect holes with cone-shaped dirt in the bottom and spread each set of roots with love. Like a plant mixologist, I concocted the perfect get-started-right cocktail for each bush. I watered them, and I talked to them, and I sprayed them, and I imagined what each one might become.

Because rose bushes are like children.

I resolved to be the ideal rose mother, and for several weeks, I was. My babies rewarded me with a profusion of intoxicating blossoms with which to spangle my home. I deemed my effort a success and went on vacation, because I’d earned it, right?

I came home a week later and ran to the back to greet my babies, certain they’d have another crop ready for me. But the beds were overgrown with weeds a foot high. Yellowed leaves covered the ground, and the ones clinging to the the canes were covered in black spot. And what were those flea-like bugs all over the heads of each desiccated not-flower?

Maybe I live in a condominium today because of my experience with roses. I mean, I love gardens, but I’ll pay to visit them from now on.


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