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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Growing Roses is a Matter of Life or Death

Being a writer makes life a lot more interesting. The week after my feature story on growing roses appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune it became the catalyst for a couple of conversations that still make me smile every time I think of them.

The first one occurred in a shop in Tacoma. As the cashier rang up my purchases we starting talking about my article. Soon two more women who'd overheard joined in and there we were, four of us, in the middle of one of those spontaneous and sometimes personal discussions women who might be total strangers have no qualms about. (It's yet another female trait men just don't "get" at all.) Of course the topic was how best to grow roses.

"One of my friends says she puts coffee grounds around the bushes," said one lady.

We responded with a collective "Hmmmmm.... interesting."

"Well that makes sense," said another, "because I hear they really love
organic stuff."


As soon as she spoke that word a charming older lady began to smile. She smiled like someone with a secret too good to keep to herself. And it was.

"Well girls," she said, lowering her voice even though no one else was around, "just between us, that's where Fred ended up." Pause. She winked and nodded. "In the rose bed." All of our eyebrows lifted and I felt my own cheeks compulsively contract into a stupid grin.

"Really?" I said. I'm usually the first one to open my mouth.

"Oh yes. You know, he just loved being out among his roses and fussed over them so much. One day he came in from the yard and said 'Honey, someday when I die I want you to scatter my ashes in the rose bed.' We were married for almost sixty years and when his time came I just did what he wanted. Then I sold the house and moved away. But the new owners don't know a thing about it." She giggled and went on. " And girls, the next summer my old neighbor called me up and said, 'Dorothy, you're never going to believe this. You should see your roses. They've just gone crazy this year, more beautiful than ever. And you remember that Tropicana you guys always had so much trouble with? Well it's gorgeous now! It MUST be because of Fred.'"

"How wonderful!" I blurted out, my imagination in high gear. "Just think of it . . . the rose bushes he loved are taking up the organic matter that was . . . Fred, and (this just chokes me up) he's becoming a real part of them. It's like Fred is actually living on, right in the roses, right in the blooms. That is so SWEET!"

My impassioned little speech kind of hung in the air self-consciously until drifting away, like the rest of us. But I think Dorothy liked it, and I left with a smile and a story idea.

Then there's my friend, "M" . . .

Just a day or two later I saw her at the gym and she said "Hey, Candace. You know, I was thinking about you last weekend when I was pruning the h_ _ _ out of my roses."

"Oh?" I gulped. It was the darned article again. I knew she meant the part that said it's not as important HOW you prune your roses as it is that you do prune them.

"Yeah. As I took the chainsaw to them, (and here she gestured like a madwoman with a McCulloch) I said, 'There! Take that! Candace says you'll be FINE!!!!!!!'"

Then I shivered, imagining her maniacal laughter echoing through the neighborhood above the whine of the saw.

Now I just hope "M" and her husband weren't the ones who bought Fred's old house.

P.S. I didn't make up the part about "Fred" but I did change the names.
Rose photo is courtesy of Weeks Roses. The name is "Strike it Rich".

1 comment:

Wendy S said...

I love it! I've heard that about fertilizing with "Fred" or "Mary" or "Fido".

And I was taught by my grandpa to prune the h--- out of roses as well. Thought I don't think I've tried it with a chain saw...yet....