“Where have you been,” says ‘Sophy’s Rose’ as I bend over her to drag out some weeds.
I feel guilt wash over me.
“I’ve been busy.” I try not to look at her, but she clutches at me with her prickles so that I have to remove them one by one. Roses beckon with their beautiful faces, but they never want to let go. I continue weeding and try to ignore her.
“It’s been over two months since you’ve come by. You’ve been out with Susan again haven’t you? Or, is it Becky this time?” I jump back in surprise and snag myself. Dang it. ‘Sophy’s Rose’ is too smart for her own good. She’s referring to Rudbeckia fulgia ‘Goldsturm’, black-eyed Susan. Becky is Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’, a shasta daisy cultivar whose sunny personality helps carry the garden through the long, hot summer.
“You think we don’t see you, but we do. You visit Becky and Susan almost every morning and night along with that pink Phox paniculata. She’s just common,” says ‘Buff Beauty’, in a huff, from the other side of the border.
How on earth do they know? They can’t possibly see over the deck into the tiered beds, can they?
As if reading my thoughts, ‘Cl. Cecile Brunner’ snorts, “We have our spies. the David Austins are in that part of the garden. You think they don’t share your whereabouts?”
“Look, I’m here now, and I’ve got some nice, organic rose food for your roots. I’m deadheading your spent blooms. What else do you want from me?”
“We want you to spend time with us. We were your first love. Remember?” pleads ‘Golden Slippers’, “What happened? You’ve changed.”
I clip and throw dead blooms over the edge of the retaining wall. Why am I so blase about the roses’ care anymore? A drop of sweat rolls down from my hair into my face. I take off my gardening hat and wipe it out of my eyes with a corner of my t-shirt. It’s 98F and climbing. I’m hot. My clothes are snagged, and I have wicked scratches on my legs and arms.
“I always get the worst of our affair, and I’m no masochist. Other flowers don’t tear at me, and pull my hair.”
“Whoa,” says ‘Baseye’s Blueberry, “I’m not into any of the kinky stuff. I got no thorns.” He fluffs his stems as if to emphasize the point.
“Me neither,” says ‘Zephirine Drouhin’, “Little good it did me.”
“True ZD, but somewhere your partner on the arbor picked up a nasty rose disease. I think it was Rose Rosette. Although it isn’t listed in Oklahoma, I know that’s what it was. He had to go, as did one shrub of ‘New Dawn’.”
“She just killed them,” cries ‘Cliffs of Dover’ “who will be next?” He shakes so hard, his black-spotted leaves fall like confetti around his waist.
“Oh, Cliffie, stop that. No one is going to kill you. You’re a shrub rose. Other than the blackspot, you are great,” I say, tipping up one of his blooms with my gloved fingers. “At the back of the border, you support all the other plants. Besides, who could keep company with the purple crapemyrtles except you? Let’s be clear. I didn’t kill those roses. Disease did them in. I just had to dig them out. Oy, my aching back.”
“Your aching back? What about my leaves? I have spider mites,” says ‘Cramoisi Superieur’, and I’m being crowded by the common phlox.”
“I have mildew,” says ‘Julia Child’, “and this weather makes me feel like I’m in an overheated kitchen!”
“Stop it! See what I mean, I just don’t have time for all of your prima donna ways anymore. Some of you don’t give much throughout summer. Instead, you just sit and complain while other plants take up the slack.”
“Yet, you’re still here,” says ‘Valentine’ in his velvety rich, red voice. He wafts a bit of his spectacular perfume under my nose. “I bet your prairie plants don’t have this.”
“‘Valentine’, that’s not playing fair,” I insist.
“All’s fair in love and war,” says ‘Marchesa Boccella’ the pink dimpled beauty, as she blows me a perfumed kiss.
“You do still love us don’t you?”asks ‘Altissimo’ as he leans from his lofty perch to touch my hair.
“I will again in September,” I sigh, “once the heat is gone, and you start to bloom again.” And I know I will.
All the pictures which accompany this post were taken in May when the roses are at their height of beauty in Oklahoma. Except for shrub roses and some of the newer cultivars, roses don’t bloom much in summer. However, in mid-September, they will have a renaissance when temperatures again cool. In Oklahoma, as throughout much of the country, we are seeing soaring temperatures of 100F and over. Yesterday, in town, it was 107F. However, at my country place, it was a balmy 103F.