Some years ago we lived in Brooksville, a small, old town in Florida. The kind of town with brick streets, wood clapboard sided homes and where churches out number bars. Back in those days we had a lovely garden. I say ‘had’ because it’s just not the same since we moved.
But I digress, many years ago we had a neighbor whom we dubbed The English Redneck. Even though his wife was from New Jersey, and he was an ex-telecom guy, Mr. Foster was from Cornwall and was in love with the American ‘country’ style. We knew he was leaving by the sound of the rumbling tail pipes on his mudder tire clad Ford. He’d taken a job as a land clearer and one day he came home and stopped by our house with a huge stump in a bucket. In his best BBC accent stated, “I just couldn’t kill it,…can you save it?” Apparently, he’d been hired to demolish an old house on the edge of town – when we say old, we mean like 100 years +. Growing up the side of it was this enormous rose bush. He took a chainsaw to it and used the Bobcat to pull out the stump. Yes, the stump that was now at my door. I thanked him for it and knew we’d be in for a huge hole digging dilemma. Because digging in that yard was an epic adventure in new and innovative ways to ruin even the best yard tools and your back warring with the Live Oak roots! I didn’t care – I have to plant it. I found a somewhat sunny spot and we dug. It was barely adequate, and the plant struggled for years. Long and gangly with sparse tiny flowers. Jon was always “Get rid of that thing”. Then we moved and it nearly died…I think it missed us. About the time we decided to upgrade our housing, came The Great Recession – ugh! When finances drove me to the point of tears and decided to really empty the unsellable home, I went around and dug up anything and everything I liked. Secretly, I hoped one of the bankers would show up and trip in a hole….
At our new home, I’d wanted to remove some formosa azaleas the previous owners planted in the blazing sun. They’d be pretty for a week or two in Feb. then a hedging nightmare the rest of the year, as they were shaped into big green balls (I really don’t like hedges). At the time they didn’t look that big, and I had a place to move them to…wow, I think the neighbors could’ve sold tickets to that circus! We dug and heaved, until our only tool left to use was the truck. Yup, we took those seatbelt material straps and bound them like a straightjacket – hooked them to the Sequioia’s hitch and out they came. At least the digging was easy for The Stump. But those azaleas were pissed at me and dropped dead, even with the better placement under the live oaks and lots of attention.
Fast forward, today I was dead-heading the old roses spent blossoms and noticed just how big this thing has become! It’s taller than I am, and consumes the entire flower bed. You can smell the sweet blooms from the driveway and have to argue with the bees that don’t understand what you’re up to with those scissors. This is a rose with no season, I trim it, it takes a break and blooms again – all year.
Yes, Jeremy (our favorite local landscape and tree guy) was right, he told me that “If you cut it, it’ll just get bigger!” It isn’t a Knock-Out Rose, as he’d suspected at first, it’s too old for that. I call it my Cemetery Rose. An old friend once told me about people planting roses at graves so their loved ones would always have fresh flowers, a lovely thought. Those are old roses. I think that this plant has a will of its own. Even though its original house and owners have moved on, it’s found a place in the sun to keep smiling. And it makes me smile too.