Running With Pruners


Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a rose-aholic.

I have roses on my dining room table, roses in pots on my back porch, rose perfume, essential rose oil for the bath, a rose tattoo, and would even open the sun roof and put potted roses in my car, which by the way is named “The White Rose.” I confuse the dealership when I call up and say, “White Rose needs a spa day,” then after a confused silence, explain, “Um, I need my car detailed.”

This is a tough time of year for me because roses are at their peak in June. At my last house, where I had more yard space getting direct sun, I would go mad buying and planting roses until a friend would kindly suggest, “Do you think you need to talk to someone?”

“Why?” I would ask putting down a potted Climbing New Dawn and swiping a dirty gloved hand across my sweating brow while pulling peppermint spray from the back of my pants to help the row of five rose bushes in front of me which had black spots on their leaves. “I can see your Am Ex peeking out from your bra,” he said. When I am on a crazed rose-buying binge, I don’t even have time for a wallet.

You see, I deeply understand roses. We have both been called difficult and high maintenance but have been complimented on our long stems. Roses require constant attention. They like a good watering but don’t like to get their leaves wet. They need a proper PH balanced soil and well-drained loam. They need loads of direct sunlight. They need to be dead-headed when the petals fall and only cut above a three-leaf cluster. They need to be constantly told how beautiful they are and to always, always have their thorns respected.

And although the famous saying is “a rose is a rose is a rose,” I find that not to be true. Most commercial growers are not carrying old-fashioned garden roses. The definition of disappointment is a woman holding up a bouquet to her nose and sniffing . . . Nada. Nope. No scent at all. We have become a culture which has forsaken the olfactory pleasures for physical beauty. Even if you take time to smell the roses, they don’t actually have a scent.

I am old school and always pick a rose for its intoxicating smell: Peace, Double Delight, Melody Parfumée, Bolero. But over the years I have seen the garden centers in the Hamptons carry less and less of these beautiful Hybrid Teas and instead have row after row of Carefree Roses. First of all, that is an oxymoron. Second, grand dame roses would take one look at these shrubs and dismiss them as peasants. I find it sad that people don’t want to put in the time and effort to grow roses in their gardens.

I am a card-carrying member of the Southampton Rose Society and a great admirer of the work they do taking care of public rose gardens. They also still have an annual rose competition. Due to stress, I decided to no longer enter. Trying to find a bloom at just the proper time that was not too open, then putting it in the refrigerator, then realizing on competition day the petals weren’t opening up to their full potential and yelling to my sister, “Get me Q-Tips NOW!” (you place them in between the petals to gently urge them open), then trying to cut off a brown spot on a leaf with serrated sewing scissors without it being obvious was just too much.

So now I just sit on my deck and see my gorgeous rose plants, and take in a deep and satisfying breath. And I think . . . maybe just one more.

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