Back in the 1990s, I caught a bad case of gardening deficit syndrome (GDS). I couldn’t do enough gardening. The Dutch Gardens catalog would arrive in the mail – and I was suddenly $400 poorer and 400 bulbs richer. The local gardening centers, with all their perennials and annuals, were my hangouts. Our local suburb had a massive leaf mulch site, and I would drive with my green trash bags and shovel to my heart’s content.
But there was nothing like roses. I was addicted. I planted almost 70 rose bushes around our house – hybrid teas, climbers, floribundas, antique roses, carpet roses, and David Austin roses. I read books on roses – their history, propagation, famous rose gardens. I sprayed, I watered, I fertilized, I inhaled. By late May each year, our garden (the house is on a corner) was a traffic-stopper.
Little did we know that far to the north – Iowa, to be exact – a biological (natural) control of a weed called multiflora rose had been introduced. It worked. It worked well. It worked so well that it not only controlled the multiflora rose, it controlled just about every other kind of rose.
And it spread. South. One day, I noticed my Ballerina rose sporting a really weird stalk – reddish in color, softer than a regular stalk, with thick thorns and deformed looking flowers.
It was Witches’ Broom, aka Rose Rosette Disease. That natural control of the multiflora rose that had succeeded so well in Iowa cornfields.
The hybrid tea roses died – every single bush. The climbers succumbed. Two David Austin roses and two antique roses seemed to have resisted it. Two out-of-the-way carpet roses missed it. Instead of 70 roses, I had six. And a devastated, empty landscape.
The moral of the story is: roses, like beauty and youth, are fleeting and short-lived. Enjoy their glory while you have it. And don’t overdo it.
The poems submitted for our Rose Month theme in May, however, will be longer lasting.
Lane Arnold wrote of rosy sunrises, faded damask roses “shimmering/ in an / old cut glass / vase, ” reminders of an old love. Roses always seem to inspire thoughts of love – no one thinks to give marigolds or petunias on Valentine’s Day.
Maureen Doallas and I got carried away with a discussion about two roses named Betty Boop and Dick Clark. Maureen did what you would expect Maureen to do – an extraordinarily fine and literary approach. I did what those who know me would expect me to do – I went vaudeville and mixed Robert Frost and an imaginary conversation between Mr. Clark and Ms. Boop (yes, I’m hopeless, I know).
Nancy Rosback went the minimalist route, with a short poem (and large art) entitled “May.” Like Nancy does, she uses few words to convey large meanings:
not without thorns
petals of Love
Jennifer Liston captured the beauty of the rose and the agony of the thorn in one compact poem entitled (surprise!) “Roses:”
extended to you,
beneath scarlet undershade
settling with familiar fragrance;
contempt streaks us,
you and I;
needing another name
Maureen Doallas then did a kind of grand finale, a poem called “Color Theory, ” in which she briefly and concisely explored the meaning – or un-meaning – of not receiving roses of a certain color. It’s wonderful:
You did not send white
roses; what innocence
protested you sore denied.
You did not send peach
roses, hope for the future
flagged. And no, you did
not send red roses. No
emblem of the heart you stole
with words could fix what
passion spent in petals picked.
The best thing about all of these poems is that they will withstand the onslaught of time – and they are immune to Rose Rosette Disease.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In June we’re exploring the theme Trees.
- Poets and Poems: Laura Mullen and “After I Was Dead” - January 24, 2023
- “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” – An Old Poem, a New Artwork - January 17, 2023
- Poets and Poems: Nancy Murphy and “The Space Carved by the Sharpness of Your Absence” - January 13, 2023