I’ve found my mind blissfully focused in a week with almost no teaching but with time to attend to my garden. The tasks I most enjoy in the garden are pruning and feeding, and this is the time of year for roses to receive this attention.
First I assessed the overall shape and took note of any spindly, straggly growth that would need removing. Then, with the aim of maximizing the potential for a beautiful shape, I launched into the making of hundreds of tiny decisions as to where to make the cuts. I looked for good, outwardly facing buds and made the cuts just beneath them, standing back from time to time to re-assess the shape.
As I worked I remembered the different scents that emanate from each rose. The deep red Rugosa Roseraie de l’Hay is very strongly perfumed with the heady perfume traditionally associated with rose. The coral/pink rambler rose ‘Albertine’ has a slightly spicy scent. The exquisite cream flowers of the Macmillan rose have a very delicate perfume with perhaps a hint of fruit.
The rose next to this in my garden is ‘Felicia’ – meaning ‘happiness’. It’s a rose that’s taller than me now. As I clipped it into shape, my senses recalled being drenched in its heavenly scent and delicious colour in past summers. In those moments of extreme pleasure I thought how well it lives up to its name. It’s an anomaly in my front garden really – a bit of a showgirl – because it’s a very pink pink at odds with the restrained palette in the rest of the front garden. But I love my rose of happiness and so it will remain as long as it is happy in my garden.
Pruning the climber by my front door is always a challenge. Ideally I need someone to help get the ladder in place so I don’t have a nasty accident. Even though I had some help this year, I still had a scary moment or two leaning into the wall at the top of the ladder with nothing to hold on to; but I was determined to reach those rogue stems.
This rose has two names – ‘Blush Noisette’ and ‘Cuisses de Nymphe’, the latter meaning ‘nymphs thighs’. When in full flower the myriad tiny flowers – all in subtly different shades of pales pink – do look like nymphs thighs.
In June when the roses are at their best, I ask my students to pause and smell the roses as they walk down the path after class. I believe that for a happy and soulful life it’s important to pause long enough to take in the scents and sights of beauty in our world. Roll on summer!
If you want to be happy for a day – get drunk
If you want to be happy for a month – get married
If you want to be happy for ever and ever – make a garden