Friday, April 29, 2011
Do you know Zephirine Droughin?
A beautiful, lipstick pink climbing rose with few thorns, a preference to not be fussed with and, amazingly, shade loving?
Yep, a beautiful, robust, blooming, climbing, grows-in-the-shade rose. I have three of them. They were presents from my mother.
My mother's gardens have always been anchored by beautiful roses. I did not get her rose thumb although I have done fine in other gardening categories. Here at the Pond, my mother would look around and say,
"Fishy, where are the roses?"
" In a vase Mama, in a vase".
Having roses in vases is ALWAYS a welcome sight and scent in any proper Southern home.
Having a garden without roses is, apparently, unacceptable.
So, about a decade ago, when Mama was here, she went forth in search of roses which could defeat my no-rose talents. This is how the Zephirine's came to be blooming next to the hammock under the big oak tree in the back yard. I do give them a season long fertilizer every Spring and a quick spray with a product which promises to keep fungi and insects away from roses. I do sometimes remember to water them when God has not, but not always. Every Spring the Zephirines show their appreciation for my neglect by blooming in big generous bouquets.
Today, I went out there to lie in the hammock and say my gratitudes the feared tornado spawning horror storm skipped our little patch as it crossed the state. The images on the media today have been grim so there is MUCH to be gratefully said. I was peacefully swinging in the hammock, smelling the roses and listening to the newly fledged family of Cardinals find their voices. A rare afternoon delight.
I think I frightened the fledgelings when I started laughing aloud. I rarely make it through a Spring without remembering the day the Zephirines got planted. The day I saw my mother and my husband go to war. On that day I was not laughing as I was sick with the horror of the conflict. In her younger years my mother was quite well known for her caustic tongue with a quick fire temper to boot. Blowfish, as I have mentioned before, did not get the temper gene in his dna package. He did get the I-will-irritate-you-beyond-all-rationality gene. And he is stubborn.
My Mom was intent on supervising the placement and the installation of the Zephirines. Clearly a daughter without roses was not to be tolerated. Mom had Blowfish tote and organize roses, soil ammendments , a hose and various general gardening implements to the selected location. Before the first shovelful got turned over Mom was carefullly explaining the importance of the size and depth of the hole, the importance of the placement of the roots. The key to becoming a successful rosarian. Roses do not have a single tap root or a root ball, they have sort of a multi-pronged root spray below the grafted base stem. When planting, it is crucial to have a pyramid of loose dirt to support this root system. Once this core support has happened all the roots sprays are then layed out like a circle skirt. No folding, crimping, cutting or encircling is allowed.
Once the rose planting 101 instructions had been reviewed multiple times, Blowfish suggested we "girls" go inside for some lemonade. He would call us back out once the shovel work was done and the planting could actually commence. We did just that. Which was perhaps a seriously bad idea. When we returned to the rose planting area there were three perfectly spaced holes in the earth at the perfect depth.
Each had a mound of loose dirt alongside, each had a rose bush standing at the ready in the nursery container, the hose was on with a proper control nozzle. Perfect.
As we approached I called out,
"Wow Blowfish! this is great".
I barely caught a glimpse of my mother's glare while receiving Bloowfish's response which was about getting the roses in the ground so we could all have a beer. Eventually it dawned on me my usually chatty mother was speechless. I turned to observe her standing still as Stonehenge , frowning at the holes in the ground. Uh-oh. Blowfish stepped forward a bit and said,
" Okay Mom, which one do you want to plant first?"
" I am not your Mother."
Yep, that response caught my attention. Actually it was the tone of voice more than the words which struck terror to my heart. I took a good look at Mom and realized she was beyond annoyed. I looked at Blowfish, still smiling but looking a tad confused. My stomach started doing gymnastics on it's own.
I stepped forward saying in a cheery tone,
" Okay, lets see if I can get the hang of becoming a Rosarian. Mom, what do I do first?"
My Mother, stepping carefully with her cane over uneven ground moved closer to the holes in the ground, studied them a bit then pointing with the cane asked Blowfish,
" Do you see these holes are square?"
" Yes ma'am"
" Do you think roses come or grow in squares?"
"No Ma'am. The holes are the size and depth you asked me to dig".
" You do know squares do not have diameters?"
Oh God! I knew that tone of voice. I knew that slight change in Blowfish's chin position.
The stomach gymnastics were getting robust and, creeping into my psyche was a never before experienced type of anxiety. Definitely there was no laughter. Trying again to prevent any furthur or,
God spare me, escalation of conflict, I tried to intercede by saying,
" Blowfish, why don't you go get a beer while Mom and I start the planting".
It was hopeless. Mom again pointed to the ground saying,
" Explain this!"
" Explain what?"
" Stop with the passive agressive responses and answer my question"
" You didn't ask a question. You issued a command."
I was falling down the rose hole to hell.
" Did you or did you not understand the importance of the supporting pyramid and the spreading of the roots when planting a rose?"
" Yes ma'am"
" Then why did you dig square holes"
" I was using a square shovel".
I am not sure but I may have whimpered aloud at this point. The absolute worst aspects of my mother's character and my husbands were about to have a full on collision.
" Did you think it a good idea to put round pegs in square holes too?"
" I like to think outside the circle"
" STOP! Both of you. This is crazy. Mom, can't you be at least civil if not actually grateful? Blowfish, you absolutely have lost your mind if you think I am going to stand here and watch you bait my mother. Now Mom, tell me how to get these things properly planted."
I was not heard by either war lord.
I fled into the house.
The roses got planted.
There was an uneasy truce around the dinner table.
Over time, " square holes" became family code for unresolved conflict.
Over time my mother and my husband laughed together over this memory.
It took me longer.
But today as I lay in the hammock listening to the fledgelings bait each other I thought about how
time changes your response if not your perspective. I can lay in the hammock, smelling the Zephirines and leave the bickering to the birds.