Saturday, April 7, 2012

Don Juan Rose

My Don Juan climbing rose produces dark red buds that open slowly and never completely show their inside yellow stamens. They are not like the legs-spread-wide-apart look of the new Knock-out roses.

I don’t let it climb anywhere it wants to. I cut the branches so they suit me and are artfully arranged on a small fan-shaped trellis I bought years ago. The plant becomes bushy in a way I like—not the tall lanky, leggy look of regular rose bushes.

I love the deep red. Other color roses do not interest me—only deep red.
When we first moved into this house in 1995, I tried eight regular roses in my front border—the only place there was enough sun. The Peace rose and the Lincoln are the only names I remember. They were straggly looking at the bottom and an invitation to Japanese beetles. My husband planted them, but I paid someone to dig them up and throw them away. He took it hard.

The first blooms of the Don Juan cut each spring are gorgeous. The leaves have no black spot. The bugs haven’t gotten organized yet, and the summer heat has not begun to bake them.

I put seven buds in a cheap vase given to me 40 years ago by a relative on my husband’s side. Probably one of his aunts, who was living frugally in old age but who understood roses and all flowers the way a knowledgeable southern woman understood growing things. She probably knew the roses would fit comfortably in the vase without any artificial support and last for days.

I came late to the desire for flower knowledge. I enjoyed watching a plant die when my children were young, saying to it—I do not have to water you. I have to take care of these children and the dog but not you.

My mother knew such things, and I was rebellious about it. She dug in the yard all summer. I remember a time when she came in dripping with sweat and covered in dirt looking happy. I had been inside cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and relining them with fresh shelf paper—not my idea.

The first year my mother lost her memory and could no longer take care of the two geraniums she put on her balcony in her retirement apartment each May, I asked a neighbor to help me learn how to care for geraniums. I began to feed my Don Juan rose. I had planted it years before, and it did pretty well with no attention, but when I poured on MiracleGro Rose Food, it did much better.

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