When we moved into this nondescript little grey house, the bushes hunkered down against the cold, the weeds spread their wings wide and water pooled in murky grass along the entire north side of the house. We’ve since hand-dug trenches inside the foundation wall and installed sump pumps, laboriously machine dug a French drain, and laid drainage gravel to whisk away the rain. In the winter, it now flows away from the house and we watch the storm drain swallow the wetness that was our swamp filler.
Once the water was at bay, I turned to the weed bed. I pulled the noxious ones and over-wintered it with clover to enrich the depleted soil. I planted cast-offs from the end of season garden carts, not knowing what would survive this poor soil. The carnations died. The salvia fed the saucy hummingbird and then didn’t make it to the spring. The hydrangeas pouted and dropped all their petals, scratching at the air with their exposed brown branches. But the lavender was happy. It took over the spaces left bare by the carnations and salvia and fed bees by the hundreds every day. At peace for a moment with the weeding, I turned my attentions to the front bed.
The pitiful roses crawled along the ground, the petals crushed by rains, their branches many and wild, all vying for attention. My vision is naturally a lush and heavy rose, one who is fragrant, heady, and carefree. Ones just like the pin that inspires me for today. But the roses I’ve been given are of the roadside variety. They grace the drab concrete Walgreens Pharmacy across the street, hardly the Palace at Versailles. They mass when they are hardily clipped and kept low.
When I visited my girlfriend Lori’s high maintenance rose garden, I saw how she’d trained her climbers. She chose two main stalks and attached them to an arbor. They grew straight and clean, flowering profusely up the side of the structure. They have yet to cover the whole arbor, as she envisions, but I can see it.
I picked up two frames this week at an end of season sale and today I am planting them in front of the house. Next I’ll be choosing which stalks are going to be the lucky ones. All the others will be trimmed back next winter with the tips listed at Fine Gardening.