As far as I can remember each spring, without fail, my mother’s hardy rose plants lining the front lawn of our house in Georgia would bloom. Extravagantly. With clockwork precision, and eve n with a certain degree of urgency, the very moment winter gives way to spring, the rose buds would start to push through, shoot up, and then begin to open. It’s as if they couldn’t wait a minute longer to show off.
My mother does not particularly tend to her patch of roses with any extraordinary care. Sure, she'd drown them in water from the garden hose specially during the scorching summer months, and maybe trim off an overextended branch here and there when she deems them too unruly, or whenever she feels like it. But she'd have none of that loving garden-tending sessions. And no, she never talks to her roses. But even without much prodding, the rose bushes would come out of hibernation all on their own and simply burst into bloom, almost always the very first in our neighborhood to herald the coming of the new season.
What do we do with the roses?
Mostly, we just let them be. Before leaving the house in the morning or coming home in the evening, we’d give them a cursory admiring glance, and maybe comment how beautiful, delightful and quite extraordinary they are. Indeed, they are beautiful and delightful and quite extraordinary, but we’re so used to them being beautiful and delightful and quite extraordinary.
Once, my younger brother, before moving to Baltimore, bunched up a dozen or so of them into a vase in no particular artful floral arrangement, and placed it in the middle of the dining table where we admired them for more than two weeks, until the very last leaf and petal fell.
Then there was this one time when I snipped a long stem, angled in 45 degrees naturally, as I somehow learned somewhere, and handed it to someone whose name, face, and gender I can no longer recall.
Every now and then, from spring to summer, and sometimes long into fall, my mother would wander aimlessly into her patch, pinch a stem or two by hand, stick them unceremoniously into small potted dirt scattered about to let them grow roots. Many would thrive and she’d give away the most robust to anyone who would come by our house whenever they admire her roses. We've lost count a very long time ago how many cuttings my mother has given out so far, and we don't remember asking anyone what happened to any of them, but we’d like to think the roses have propagated well wherever they may have been planted and are also all happily showing off each spring.
Admittedly, my mother’s roses aren’t exactly the envy of our neighborhood, as the front lawn of every green-thumbed house lining our street turns into a showcase of gorgeous, sometimes exotic, colorful flowering plants beginning each spring—lilies, tulips, carnations, daisies, marigolds—the kind you’d see on glossy house and garden magazines. But as far as we know, ours is the only house with a green lawn punctuated by roses—big, bloody red roses.
UPDATE: Last night, over dinner, I asked my mother where her rose plants came from. She said that it was actually given to her by Bill Anderson, our former next-door neighbor. Somehow, through the years, my mother’s rose plants thrived, and sadly, the original plant from our neighbor’s lot did not. As for Bill, he moved to a different house.
Note: All images shot with the iPhone 6 Plus, digital photo files managed on Apple’s Aperture, post-production and black-and-white conversion done on MacPhun’s Tonality Pro. Please visit my photography website at www.dominiquejames.com. Thanks!