“We are the roses in the garden, beauty and thorns among our leaves…”
-from 10,000 Maniacs, “Eden”
My first winter as the mama of a sleepy newborn was also our first winter as homeowners, at least one of whom had enough time on her hands to dream of planting a garden. Our mail carrier trudged through six inches of fallen snow on a regular basis, bearing glorious nursery catalogs bursting with promise: nasturtiums, climbing sweet peas, heirloom tomatoes, and roses: hybrid tea, floribunda, and…”The Fairy.”
“The Fairy” is a pink landscape rose which bears, even from late spring into early fall, meltaway masses of cheerful, 1940’s kitchen-cabinet-pink miniature roses, worthy of the most precious princess. I had noticed “The Fairy” at the back entrance to my modest Elmhurst bungalow the previous summer, though I did not know its name. It came with the house, of course, and quickly became the plant which, to me, is closer to heaven than all the others put together. Finding its picture in a garden catalog, putting a name to its majesty, has allowed at least one Fairy rose to grace the yard in each of our homes…and there have been five!
I have learned during these recent days of chaos and anxiety to keep my rose gloves and garden basket close at hand. We are happiest, my youngest children and me, when we are outside. I have a chance at self-imposed therapy (in the form of pulling weeds or moving an unsuspecting plant to a new location) while the little ones bounce out the day’s (or a wee bit of it, anyway) angst on the trampoline. Even five minutes leaves a tiny clearing where thistle had grown: a vision of what could be, and a pouring-in of peace to my weary soul.
It is almost always the same, though new favorites have joined the parade: perennial geraniums, sweet woodruff, lavender, hydrangeas, apple mint and chocolate mint, rosemary and thyme, among others, and all led, certainly, by “The Fairy.” Each time, at each garden, I have tended my plants, fed them with (unthinkably stinky) fish emulsion, and watched them blossom. I have cut back their dead wood, mulched them for winter, and tried my best to rid them of black spot by gathering their fallen leaves. To others, my small patches may have looked like a lawnmower’s “excuse me,” but to me, they were certainly directly from heaven, because I loved them.
I like to think that the care I have given my Fairies and their garden companions has left them strong, resilient, and beautiful for their next “person.” They have taught me many things along the way. The little icon of the sun in the garden mailer should have been enough to keep me from planting a Fairy in the shade of two evergreens, but I am the “learn-by-doing” sort. As deeply as I love my children, I am realizing as they grow that they are their own entities. They have lived, influenced by many, some before ever I knew them, and what they do is, ultimately up to them. I have held them, I have fed them, and I have tended their wounds. Like The Fairy, some have caused pain with their thorns, thorns that they must have for protection. Protection from something that is so much bigger than I am.
I hope they know always that they have been deeply loved; that goes for the flowers and the children. When I visited one of my old houses, I was delighted to see the coral-colored climbing rose that I had planted years before blooming with pride, peeking through its barely recognizable white wood trellis, more stoic and lush than I had remembered. As my sleepy newborn embarks on a doctoral program across the country, I am sad because I know I can no longer protect him; there won’t be much time left for pulling weeds while he jumps on the trampoline. Strong and beautiful, he is ready to join the parade with The Fairy. And I am ready to enjoy the breathtaking beauty as it unfolds before me.