The scent of an old fashioned climbing rose is the very essence of a May day. I have such a rose at one corner of my vegetable garden. It’s an offshoot of the vine that grew near the house 57 years ago when Dick and I moved to the farm.
The original grew among other brambles, an impossible tangle of rose, blackberry, daffodil, peony, grape and many wild things that are not so desirable — primarily poison ivy and honeysuckle mixed in with a good sprinkling of Virginia creeper and maple saplings. When we had been on the farm for almost a year, during our first spring of living in the country, I tackled the area. Back then, I felt no fear at taking on the nearly undoable.
All spring, 4-month-old daughter Missy tucked into a stroller nearby, barely 2-year-old Scott running miniature tractors across the dirt, I cut back growth, dug out roots and wrestled vines loose from saplings. I divided peonies and moved them to new beds around the house. I opened the daffodil area to sunlight.
Dick built a grape arbor in a sunny spot and we transplanted the Concord grapes I uprooted. I salvaged all the plants that seemed worth saving, but that sense of preservation didn’t extend to the roses. Those I pretty much discarded as I dug them up. I didn’t have a suitable place to move them, and my limited gardening experience did not include growing roses.
But roses proved to be more stubborn than I.
Year after year they sprouted anew, and year after year I whacked them back as best I could. I dug periwinkle (Vinca major) from around my parents’ house and transplanted sprigs of it here and there in the freshly cleaned area. Maples spreading overhead allowed the blend of sun and shade the plants needed, and the periwinkle prospered.
The roses didn’t give up. They continued to push through the new plants, even when the periwinkle became dense with growth. I continued to cut them back and to try to dig out all the rose roots.
And then, 10 or 12 years ago, we had a wooden fence built around the vegetable garden, a fence that looked lonesome for some climbing vines. I moved a few roots of the rose to one corner and within a year was blessed with pink flowers and buds spilling over the fence, drawing in bees and butterflies, scenting the hillside with the sweet aroma of long-remembered summers at my grandmother’s house.
The roses are as carefree a flower as any I grow. I cut back unruly growth a few times a year and otherwise just enjoy them. That is, I enjoy them where I want them growing. They have not, however, ceased their determination to grow in the periwinkle bed. At this time of the year, when I am in that bed fighting the old familiars — honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, maple and oak seedlings — I also battle the roses that persist.
Gardening is a mix of the good and the bad. I suppose the pleasure of seeing and smelling roses as I work in the garden is sufficient compensation for the aggravation of weeding them out of places I don’t want them.
Nature gives us enough free gifts to make up for labor we invest in securing other gifts. One surprising free gift this spring was the presence of morels in an area near our blueberry bushes. A couple of weeks ago, as I was checking the buds on the bushes, I just happened to glance down a see a morel.
They are among the most easily identified mushrooms, but just to be sure, I took a picture and sent it to one of my botanically knowledgeable friends. She agreed that what I had was most definitely a morel. Fortunately, another four or five grew nearby, enough for a small treat with dinner that day.
I have kept my eyes open, but no more morels have emerged since that harvesting. In the past, I’ve found them at another spot on the hillside, but they haven’t returned to that area in many years.
I am, however, content with the occasional surprise of such a gift and with the well-earned gift of roses blooming on the fence.