When I was a baby there was a yellow rose bush outside my bedroom window and the fragrance would waft in and bless me with an infusion of divine love and ecstasy as I lie in my crib. I have been obsessed with roses of all kinds ever since. I have planted them everywhere I have lived for any decent length of time.
The Johnny Appleseed of roses, if you will.
Growing up I wore rose oil as a perfume, decorated my room with rose posters and fabrics and planted my first rose garden with mail-order bare-root plants and an antique Harrison's Yellow type rose variety that was abandoned by homesteaders of 100 years ago.
Wild roses are a true gift from God. Just like myself, *wink*, roses are tough, hardy, beautiful and useful. Their unassuming single five-petaled flowers rival the most ostentatious English roses in fragrance. They are incredibly hardy growing as far north as USDA zone 2.
Their petals and buds carry the vibration of love and compassion. Their rosehips are a beautiful medicine. Rosehips are a wonderful botanical to use for love, abundance, fruitfulness, and peace. They also contain vitamins A, D, E, flavonoids, lycopene, iron and are one of the most potent natural sources of vitamin C. Rose hips have anti-inflammatory properties and may be used to support healthy joints, fertility, and the immune system.
During World War II, the British government used collected rose hips to make rose hip syrup as a source of vitamin C to replace citrus fruits that were impossible to get.
I have listened to fellow gardeners comment how they hate roses. They say that roses are too much work, the thorns too brutal, pruning to arduous, deadheading too tedious. I would gladly spend days toiling in the dirt for the sight of a single beautiful rose that feels inclined to bless me with the scent of the angels.
For those of you who are only familiar with floral shop long stem roses, make no mistake, those are pretty and look good in a tall vase, but are nothing at all in beauty and fragrance to a garden rose.
For me, cultivating roses, or any kind of gardening, embody's the classic “Hero’s Journey”. Here is how the story goes.
I am just enjoying my normal life when I get a call to action. The rose catalog. I feel an otherworldly pull to place a large order. I tell myself it’s not a good allocation of my funds and I don’t have time. I then make my order. I work a lot with my mentors; the internet, gardening books and my mother-in-law. All of who are great sources of information on how to grow roses. I make all kinds of garden design plans and anxiously await my plants.
Finally, they arrive looking sick and dead but actually they are dormant. I soak and plant them with great care. The bushes start budding and growing green leaves. I laboriously tend to their every need including water and amending the soil with organic manure. I pick off worms and beetles trying to eat the newly sprouted leaves. The rose bushes are growing and the buds starting to bloom. I get my first sight of a luscious bloom in scandalous hot pink. It smells like the angels. I did it!
That’s when problems start cropping up. Black spot, mildew, aphids, chlorosis, cane canker, and winter-kill plague my beloveds. I prune, disinfect, dead-head, fertilized, water, mulch, and prune some more.
I have permanent scars on my forearms that look like defensive wounds from sword fighting from before I smartened up and started wearing welding gloves during pruning. I have even been bitch-slapped by a thorny cane which left thorns embedded in cheek, blood dripping down my face and a string of curse words that scared the chickadees out of the bird bath and garnered horrified looks from my blushing neighbor.
I finally discover the roses that will thrive, some with lots of coaxing, in my particular climate.
I am awarded bountiful blooms in numerous colors. I am drunk on their perfume. I place colorful bouquets all over my home and gift them to friends. I dry petals, rose buds, and rose hips for crafts, tea, and gourmet foods. I decorate cakes and make fresh rose petal confetti. Aww, I am living the dream!
I then decide to move to a different state. I mourn losing my lovely’s but am armed with experience and battle wounds. Curls escaping my bun, dirt under my nails, I grab my sweat stained garden hat. I hear the call of a new garden and accept my plight. This is my path and I wouldn’t have it any other way.