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A Rose By Any Other Name

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More people than not have an affinity for roses. Whether they’ve received roses as gifts, get-well wishes, or grow their own, most people can identify with the fragrance and beauty of the rose. More sonnets and poems have been written about roses than any other flower. When asked, more people than not will tell you that roses are their favorite flower, or at least the one they are most familiar with. Certainly, I am part of the masses, having my own reasons for loving this most exquisite of blooms.

At the beginning of my connubial gardening career, I planted bare-root rose stock purchased from both local nurseries and gardening catalogs. I spent countless hours planning my beds and choosing my varieties, carefully considering my choices based on fragrance, color and disease resistance. Being blessed with highly developed olfactory senses, naturally, fragrance was a priority. Each January, I would hard-prune my bushes, with the consolation that in just a few short months they would be covered again in colorful, fragrant flowers. I would get so excited just to see the first reddish-green leaf buds appear, inching along painstakingly into stems that would eventually burst into blooms.

Although my deep-pink Forty-Niner was perhaps the largest and showiest, it had no scent and took a back seat to the crimson Mr. Lincoln and the magenta Intrigue. And then there was the complex and unique Double Delight, which had red-lipped yellow blooms with the most distinguished fragrance. It soon became my favorite and I swear I could identify it blindfolded by its delicate, sweet, honey scent. Aptly named, its first bloom of the season was truly a delight as I buried my nose in its creamy center, breathing deeply, filling my nostrils with its heady fragrance. It tempted me to pluck off the first bloom, carrying it around like smelling salts, reminding me that life was indeed wonderful if one had time to stop and smell the roses. And smell them I did, year after year, watering, pruning, feeding, dead-heading and caring for them so I could enjoy this most hallowed of flowers.

My roses flourished until I eventually noticed that my Double Delight had ceased to thrive. No matter what I did, the new spring growth would invariably be yellowed and sickly and the flower buds would be small and deformed. If they would open at all, the fragrance was still there, albeit faint and tainted. I often thought of ripping it out and starting with a fresh plant but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to take such a drastic measure. It limped along until it finally just seemed to go into a kind of dormancy.

In the April issue, I wrote that circumstances had forced me to leave my home and my gardens behind and I was to be relocated to the country farm where I was raised. In “A Time to Bloom,” I described the move as devastating, yet a blessing, as I had become stagnant and had been given a chance to start afresh. I called it a metaphor of my life; I had been blessed with new beginnings and endless possibilities. Having to literally start from scratch, I went on a rose bush search that would not only replace my lost rose garden but would considerably expand it. Perusing the pallets of bare-roots this last January, I was able to replace my Mr. Lincoln and Intrigue, but alas, the Double Delight remained elusive. I kicked myself for not having the foresight to order online, but kept telling myself that it would turn up, if not this year, then maybe the next.

As spring approached, I waited patiently as the dormant canes sprouted reddish-green leaf-buds and I watched the new stems inch slowly along until one by one they eventually burst into blooms. The white Iceberg was first, followed by the golden Midas Touch and then a generous Mr. Lincoln. The new Intrigue bloomed, true to form, incredibly fragrant. Checking for new blooms everyday was a highlight and I eventually had enough to pick a small bouquet to bring indoors.

As I was out watering one morning, I did a double take when I spied the unmistakable flower of a Double Delight blooming from my new Peace rose bush. I was surprised yet confused and stooped to double check the still-intact label. Although it read Peace and should have had yellow and light-pink blooms, it had the red-lipped, cream-centered flower of Double Delight. But I knew that the real proof was in the fragrance, and as I bent down to sniff, I was hit with the familiar fragrance of sweet, honey rose. I could not help myself and snapping that bud off, I carried it around with me, inhaling its sweet fragrance until by that evening it had withered in my hands.

I can’t help but think that perhaps some restless soul searching for a Peace rose purchased a Double Delight for their collection and encountered the same wonderful surprise. Surely that rose had come to my new home as a mismarked mistake, yet it was home nevertheless. The spirit of my beloved Double Delight had divinely come to rest in my new gardens. Is it any wonder that the rose is the basis of so many poems, sonnets and stories?

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