Prelude to Summer

The first to bloom were the purple irises in a large clump.  From chiffon-shrouded buds, they curled their purple petals open, revealing a hint of glimmering gold.  They stood tall, their grape fragrance catching you just as you passed by, causing you to look again, surely that grape scent hadn’t come from them?  But it had, and as a slight breeze carried their fragrant symphony delicately forth, the bees buzzed and hummed, enjoying summer’s first taste of song.

Then it was a tight ball of a peony bud, bursting open with its huge, single petals as if proclaiming, “Look at me!  I am the first of the peonies, none can surely be as magnificent!”  And they may not be, because nothing is as amazing as that first peony exploding into bright bloom in the garden, no matter its color, its size or its type.  From atop strong, tall stems, my first-born peony of the summer looks across its counterparts in the garden, crowning itself with a golden center of bright stamens.  And nothing quite prepares you for the disappointment as its concerto quickly fades and one by one its petals lose their grip, and flutter to the ground.  Their beautiful interlude just a memory, as its dark petals stain the rocks pink with morning dew.

From tight-coiled cones, my white allium were next on stage.  Their stems swelled and swelled until one morning, feathery white headdresses emerged.  Theirs was a soft minuet formed with the slight scent of an onion and chive-like stalks, waving gently in the breeze.  And their small clumps throughout my garden performed long-blooming solos in white.  The only white blooms in my garden, they warrant a standing ovation for their brave deviance from the bright colors that take over later in the summer.

Without intermission, an heirloom yellow shrub rose performed a final, golden overture among its deep green, glossy leaves.  The morning sun’s light setting their petals aflame. In an instant, they seemed to go from bud to bloom to flailed petals, scattering on the ground below.  A brief, yet lovely, sonata of color, fragrance and thorns.  Here now, gone tomorrow, nothing but a golden dream blurred sharply in our minds.

There are certain times in life where the work just must stop, the music must be heard and the world’s most beautiful moments must be applauded.  The weeding could wait.  The watering could wait.  These were times to look over the first of my blooming bounty, cherishing the very magnificence of an iridescent, silken petal tempted open by the sun’s warm encouragement.  This was a time to watch in wonder as butterflies descended from windy heights, swirling madly, but somehow ending upright atop a pollen-encrusted bloom.  This was a time to feel excitement like goosebumps on my arms, for the magical, visual sound that is just beginning, each new bloom an instrument, only just refraining at the final stanza of their prelude.

And as all these instruments of a springtime garden came together, a late spring orchestra culminated in one grand crescendo, diminishing back down with sweet, soft notes . . . promising a symphony yet to come.

Noses in the Roses

Roses.  It seems I’m not the only one that likes them around here.  Blame it on their sultry good looks, their vibrant, bright colors, their princessly charm on thorn-defended thrones . . . or maybe more accurately, their delectable deliciousness.

I prune them ever so carefully.  Deadhead them precisely down to the next “leaf of three.”  I savor their slightly irridescent hues as they begin to unfold their first delicate petal.  I dream of what they will look like the next morning, unfolded fully in the dewy light of morning.

Then just like that . . . they’re gone.  Disappeared.  Only a memory, that begins to feel more like a Ghost of Gardens Past.

A beautiful rose, although not from my garden. My roses are dessimated to nothing more than thorny, sheared-off sticks.

My roses become victims to my garden’s fiercest predator:  the mule deer. An unlikely culprit, you may think.  However, anyone who’s had the disdain of gardening in the land of deer knows my agony.  Think bitten off blooms, tasty annuals pulled right out of the ground, shaken into a mess of dirt and roots, unearthed by a hungry deer.  Hoofs digging, pawing at newly planted perennials, shrub branches stripped clean of leaves, and roses diminished to nothing more than a few bare sticks jutting out of the ground.

My shrub roses take the hardest hit.  What is it about roses?  Apparently, we humans are not their only fans.  One day I will notice a brand new bud, near to bursting open into bloom.  The next day I will find nothing but gnawed off stems, the buds have been completely stolen, eaten in their entirety.  Not even the meager hint of a rose hip remains to proclaim that it really was there, sitting atop that tall stem just the day before.

The beautiful rose bloom I wish for my garden!

By the end of summer, my poor shrubs begin to look like I’ve completely lost my marbles, and all respect for pruning etiquette.  They are sheared off like a chainsaw taken haphazardly to knicking this stem off, then this one, and this one until all that remains is thorny short stems, lacking even the green of a single leaf.  Sounds pretty, doesn’t it?  That’s exactly what I had in mind when I bought my Double Knock Out Rosa Radtko.

Recently, I’ve also happened upon the discovery that deer aren’t the only ones attracted to tasty roses.  I had a beautiful group of three deep red roses in a vase with a few stems of baby’s breath and Eucalyptus leaves on my table.  They were a bright spot in an otherwise dull February.  I mixed the attached plant food into the water and couldn’t believe it when they lasted over a week on my counter.

But it wasn’t until their very last hurrah on my table when Max realized the secret they had been hiding all along:  water!  (And just for the record, my cats are provided with fresh water, although they seem to prefer to drink out of the toilets.)   He too, seems to like diving right into a bunch of scented roses, parting them roughly with his furry face to get a drink of the florist-solution-sweetened water.  I only hope that stuff isn’t poisonous.

Max hasn’t realized that he’s in such close proximity of this “rose water” stuff yet.

Hmmmmmm, is that water I smell? Going in for the kill.  Nothing like some warm, flower stem infused, stale water to drink.

So much for my roses!