Once, I saved dish towels and aprons in a hope chest and fantasized about my future home. Nothing fancy. Instead, it was always a cottage adorned by fragrant, climbing roses.
Not very original I know . . . . How many girls who read Regency romances don’t dream of a rose-covered cottage and picket fence with two cats in the yard. Books have been written, and songs composed about such. So many that some girlish fantasies come with a heady aroma tinged in rosey hue. Mine did anyway.
In Oklahoma, the land of prairie and sun, this dream of mine was not very practical, and my personal exterior displays a very practical girl usually clad in blue jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes. If you met me, you would wonder where the dreamy artist is, but my inner life is full of fanciful notions.
On an ill-fated vacation in Missouri when I was twenty-two, I saw a log cabin perched on the side of an Ozark mountain, and my heart leapt. I longed for a log house that felt a part of its surroundings. Yet, I still wanted it covered in roses. I pondered these dreams, which were very different from the life I was living in a mobile home with someone who didn’t share my fantasies. Therefore, I didn’t discuss them, but, instead, held them like the precious pearls they were.
I got away from the person who sapped my hope and energy, but it took awhile. I am also stubborn, and sometimes, I want to bend things to my will. My first marriage was one of those things. I now understand with my whole heart, that I was sapping his strength too. You see, no one is all bad, or all good, but we are all entirely human.
Did you spend much of your 20s trying to figure out who you were? I did. I think many twenty-somethings do. Although I spent much of every day in various cubicles and towers downtown, in every place I called home, I had a bit of garden . . . , maybe only a small bed, a container, or even a sprig growing in a window, here and there. How could I know I was building for better things? I had no experience.
Still, the dream clung to the back of my consciousness, while I grew up and learned what was needed to survive. I’m not going to lie to you. Some of those years didn’t feel beautiful or fruitful, but they were.
When I was ready, I met Bill. He was dashing and handsome . . . still is, but I didn’t trust my own instincts. I’d had bad fortune before when I didn’t see through outward disguises. How was I to know if he was my Prince Charming?
Hesitantly, we dated, and eventually, he invited me back to his castle.
When I drove up the gravel road and turned down the drive, I couldn’t see much in the waning light, but then, suddenly, through the overgrown pasture, there it was: a log cabin. I felt a small catch in my throat. It couldn’t be true, could it?
Laughing over meals and drinking coffee, we fell in love, and I discovered why the pasture was overgrown. Bill was working night and day, six days a week for a paving company in Shawnee, over an hour away. After nearly a year of dating, we married. Together, we worked to make the cabin more sound. We caulked windows and stained the exterior, and for years we were broke. Between the two of us, we could barely squeeze a dime, but I still realized my dream was coming true, rose by rose, year by year. We were blessed with three daughters and a son, with one daughter a marriage bonus. The children are nearly all grown now, except for Bear, who is a teen herself. Over the years, with a landscape only limited by my imagination and red soil, I added roses, a few every year. I’ve lost count, but several snuggle the cabin’s exterior, which we enlarged to accommodate our family. Now the cabin seems very large, and I added roses to the garden at its feet. We planted trees for the future and shrubs and perennials. It is now our prairie paradise, but it took:
Every year is different from the last which keeps things interesting . . . in my marriage, my family, and my garden.
This spring, we’ve received plenty of rainfall perfectly spaced. You can do everything possible to have a beautiful garden, but without rainfall, nothing will thrive. I added five roses this year and removed two. The roses I added?
Rosa ‘Mary Rose,’ a David Austin or English rose. I’ve placed her on the east side of the house in the rose garden between ‘Footloose’ and ‘Buff Beauty,’ which have been there for over six years.
R. ‘Cl. Pinkie,’ a Polyantha. I once planted ‘Cl. Pinkie’ on my white rusted arbor, but once Pinkie bloomed, she turned out to be ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner.’ So, I loved and enjoyed the fair Cecile for many years until we had that record-breaking cold snap in 2010 of negative 17F. ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ climbed no more. I dug out dead canes and roots, and I replaced her late last spring with Wisteria frutescens var. macrostachya (Kentucky Wisteria) ‘Blue Moon.’ I noticed the other day that ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ has come back from her roots and is now starting to climb the wisteria. Not what I expected after such a terrible cold snap, but as in marriage and family, you never really know what’s going to happen no matter how well you plan. It’s all good. The two will be very pretty together, and because ‘Cl. Cecile Bruner’ was on her own roots she will be true to form.
If you want a wisteria, plant an American native one instead of the Chinese or Japanese variety. They are more mannerly in their climbing style and won’t pull down your structure. They are a lovely blueish purple, and they bloom later, usually avoiding late freezes. The one I planted to replace ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ on one side of the main arbor started to bloom yesterday after the rain. The flowers are held in long racemes.
So, I placed the new, real ‘Cl. Pinkie’ on the wall against the east side of the house where she will have plenty of room to climb up the trellis. It was in bad shape after we had the house stained last spring. Bill rehabbed it for me a few weeks ago.
Then, I planted ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ next to ‘Cl. Pinkie’ along the same wall. So pretty. You can grow ‘Zephirine Drouhin,’ a Bourbon, as a shrub or a climber. I think I’ll keep this one as a larger shrub.
The roses I replaced were Grandma’s Blessing Easy Elegance®, Sweet Fragrance Easy Elegance® and one other I can’t remember. The first two I was given to try, but they just didn’t work well in my garden. C’est la vie.
When I was at a local nursery, I also bought two ‘Grandma’s Yellow Rose,’ formerly known as ‘Nacogdoches.’ Roses are frequently renamed if the original name doesn’t catch the buying public’s eye and wallet. This rose was a foundling in Texas and originally named after the county where it was found.
Conard-Pyle Company sent me two shrubs of R. ‘Meikanaro’ Sunshine Daydream to try this spring. I’m excited because it is supposed to be another disease-resistant yellow rose. One of my daughters has a passion for yellow anything, and I’ll think of her when these roses bloom. Shiny healthy leaves are fleshing out the strong canes, and we shall see.
As for me, my love is a red, red rose, and when I found my prince, I didn’t expect him to make the cottage rose-covered for me. I did that myself with his blessing. That’s what great marriages and friendships do. They provide the framework of our dreams.