8 years ago my friend Stevil gave me a potted miniature rose bush after I had a neck surgery. They are temperamental little things, roses. My Mom had a line of rose bushes along the fence abutting the backyard neighbor's low fence. She couldn't care much for them once her arthritis made it difficult to walk and bend over. But they continued to grow in spite, or perhaps because, of the neglect. The first Christmas Day after her death, a single red rose bloomed on one. My Stepfather took it as a sign- roses don't bloom in New York City in December, as a rule.
But back to my potted roses. I let the little bush teach me what it wanted. Less water in winter, lots of sun all year round, it bloomed twice a year- June and December, right around the Solstices. For 4 years it taught me how to care for it, the launch of new branches meaning time for lotsa water, then letting it dry a bit when it formed buds, then lotsa water when the buds swelled. Though never really flourishing into a huge plant, it held its own and regularly grew and died, always springing back to life until...
A woman named Heather decided she should water it when I was in the bathroom. I freaked, as it was in a drying out period. And she watered it on the surface, a real no-no when it's dormant. It wants its feet wet while it sleeps, and most all the rest of growing time, too. Watering from the top is a good way to kill it. It died a slow death after that presumptuous stunt. I was pissed.
The following summer my friend Kathleen gave me another rose bush, after another neck surgery. It had bright red flowers, much more vivid than the soft pinks of its predecessor. Kathleen marvelled at how I'd had the little rose bush for 4 years, as she has no luck with roses (Her luck is with ferns and African violets). So, delighted, I put all I learned from Pinky into Captain Jack. Yes, I name my plants. I gave it some diluted tea now and then, a dribble of red wine here and there, and it seemed happy.
This spring I saw it was becoming rootbound, and took it from its original plastic pot to a larger clay pot. It shocked, dying back to a single branch that didn't look too hopeful. For a few weeks I watched it closely, trying to gauge its new demands in its new home. I began to grieve its loss, as it looked like it was in the death throes. I spoke encouragingly to it, rooting it on, if you will. Then, in May, it turned a corner and put out 2 new branches. Keeping its feet slightly wet, it acclimated to the new pot. I didn't dare hope it would produce flowers, just survive.
Captain Jack put out 4 buds this June 16th (it had stayed at 3 for years). On Summer Solstice morning all 4 buds burst open, tiny perfections of nature's art. I know they'll be gone in a week or two, but they are my little beauties now. A great reminder that no matter how things seem, with a little experience, care, prayer... things can turn out better than you thought they would.
Happy Summer, everyone.
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