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Why I Love My Suburban Rose Bed, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:46am

A Bed of White Roses

That’s my rose bed.

To say I have a white rose garden sounds so English, so glamourous, so artistic. In truth, I have a raised suburban bed of white rose bushes. With one fellow that was planted accidentally, closed buds opening to reveal peach.

But I love my rose bed on beyond zebra, as per Dr. Seuss. And I’ve been puttering around in my thoughts, deconstructing fitfully, why do I love it so? After all, the bed’s not big, not exotic, neither a sign of personal skill nor terribly valuable to the larger community.

Maybe this. These.

1. I planted it myself, for the most part. I dug the holes and ordered the bare root plants, or picked up grown shrubs at a local nursery. I had the idea, I care for it, it’s mine. Ususally¬† I’m a collaborator. Not here. If you spend much of your life respecting other people’s ideas it’s really fun to say These Are My Damn Roses And I’ll Plant Them Too Close Together If I Want To.

2. It’s all white. Except where it’s not. By which I mean there’s a unifying concept. The world is so varied and so vast; beauty comes in fragments. How do real gardeners and interior designers create that thing – and that one thing only – in the face of so many choices? Without a construct, or a de-construct I suppose, I might crawl under a low heavy table one morning, and stay there. Not because I felt poorly but because the world is too beautiful to meet.

3. That said, I disrupted my concept by accident and I’m glad. Even though I wanted the idea of a white rose bed, my accidental orange flowers echo the color of a 10-foot high apricot climber on a fence behind. You can see it reflected in the window of the top photo. Those who need constructs can embrace serendipity too.

4. Roses have names, I can know them or not, my choice. First I planted Iceberg and Pope John Paul II, then added the David Austin Glamis Castle, Winchester Cathedral and Mme. Hardy, then a few I know only as “freeway roses,” low-to-the-ground, simple flowers, hardy.

5. The scent. I can’t leave the house without smelling each one; Platonic citrus, vegetable, honey, vanilla, pine. It’s one of the ways I locate myself. Strong in the morning, the scent fades and gets lost in the smell of sun and gravel by the end of the day.

6. The cycle. Roses know their seasons. They tell me about winter and spring and summer. And there’s always one day, in April or May, when they hit their peak and I feel it like fireworks. Pop goes the rose bush. I would wish for a national holiday, All Hail The Rose, except that every zip code would celebrate a different date.

7. The possibilities. One could always do something else to a rose bed. One could take pity on strugglers and tear them out. One could foolishly crowd in yet another specimen. One could cut all flowers for the sake of one bouquet, and be forgiven. We can even foresee the boring repairs, the nails to hammer into corners, the wood that will need replacing, the rusting of the water valves.



And of course, something I don’t want to number per se, I care for my roses. I spray them with neem oil, I rustle up an extra hosing when we find ourselves in a heat wave, I deadhead and snip. They are like prickly pets, unpredictable in the small but wholly predictable in the large.

I find I like their green, waxy, often-spotted foliage almost as much as the flowers.

38 Responses

  1. As a walker, I love and appreciate everyone’s rose beds. It’s a delight to see all the varieties and to check which ones have the best scents. I love to photograph roses. I salute your rose bed!

  2. Roses are so giving….a dedicated rose bed is a very sensible way to grow roses and the experts agree….so easy to tend to their needs when they are all gathered together and look at how wonderful that they show off! Your choice of roses are simply sublime…if I lived closer I would drop by for a visit and the chance to smell all these beauties.
    You may want to invest in some rose warrior gloves….they protect the arms up to the elbows for deadheading and pruning.
    I think I remember when you first decided to plant these…they are certainly thriving under your care.
    Thank you for sharing some beauty with us today.

  3. Oh, how I love a rose garden – the smell of the flowers in the morning as I walk to work, their beautiful petals that unfold like a mystery. The colour (especially the neutrals). You’ve made the world a little bit better with this garden and I’m sure it’s made you a little bit better too :-)

  4. PS: I’m still wearing a coat and gloves and a scarf (and an umbrella) when I leave the house as the weather people suggest that it’s like mid-March instead of early May. So I’m about to cry at the thought of roses blooming. Not even remotely joking.

  5. I love the varying shades of white roses. They’re actually my favorites! I particularly enjoy them with a hint of peach or pink. I haven’t had a rose bed for years, but you have given me the idea that perhaps I need to try again.

  6. Hello Lisa,

    Your white Roses are perfectly lovely. There is nothing so serenely elegant as white and green in the flower garden and here you have that perfect combination right outside your door.

    And, even though they can be unified in some ways, there are so many small details which make each and every one of them unique. We have a particular fondness for MossRoses. We love their cabbage like flower heads and the mossy stems. They remind one of centuries past and their scent is heavenly. What more can one want.

    And to have planted this all yourself must give huge satisfaction. To triumph!

  7. Oh how I love roses! When I finally get a garden in at this house there will be roses. Apparently not this year. But I can walk down the street and admire my neighbors’ roses, and that too is nice.

    This is a gorgeous post. You seem to capture the overwhelming sense of beauty in all its promise and permutations, yet brief and fleeting. Just looking at your photos and the feeling in your musings I almost feel faint, as if I must lie back and absorb the memory. What joy to have the roses, planted and nurtured, surrounding you with joy.

  8. How beautiful, I have a white garden too, but there is nerry a rose blooming here until June. When I went to LA in December for my tenth wedding anniversary 5 plus years ago, I burst into soft tears when I saw flowers, I stood stroking them like a bit of a weirdo, it seemed so magical to me.

  9. Lisa – thank you for all the lovely close-ups of your gorgeous roses! I’m taking an online course on how to craft roses from sugar (gum paste, specifically) and I’m reveling in the variety you show here. Beautiful – and useful – post. :)

  10. Beautiful roses! No need to apologise or deconstruct. Beauty just is.

    I don’t have roses where I live now, but I hugely appreciate other people’s. I just had a evening stoll where I stopped and sniffed a gorgeous golden sunset coloured rose on a huge healthy bush.

  11. J’adore your rose garden! I especially love your varying shades of white – will make for some beautiful bouquets. White roses always give me a feeling of coolness and refreshing. Your blossoms are gorgeous!

  12. Your rose garden is just beautiful. I think we both decided to plant rose gardens about the same time, and mine have burst into bloom also. I go back and forth about cutting some for inside the house to enjoy or leaving them to welcome me home – do you cut any of yours for inside?

  13. There’s something archetypally deep about roses. Real roses- not the hybridized plasticity sadly put forth as such. Your bed of roses is ………simply that-a bed of roses. Real roses Lucky roses. Lucky you.

  14. I love your rose garden and the subtle ways in which the roses you chose to plant vary in shade, shape and, I can well imagine, scent. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs with us. I can almost smell them through my laptop.

  15. “Prickly pets”! What a lovingly apt expression of devotion and appreciation!

  16. Roses are my favorite flower, but require TLC. You’ve inspired me to move beyond the fantasy of a beautiful rose garden……

  17. Here in Virginia, roses just don’t thrive :(. So thank you so much for sharing yours. They look so refreshing!

  18. Love, love, love old fashioned roses. You are growing my dream garden! Thanks for sharing it with us! ;)

  19. Your roses are beautiful. I love my flowerbeds because they are my act of creation. I don’t have children, so I don’t get to contribute to the world that way. But I can make the world a little more beautiful – a little better – contribute to the total amount of happiness – by growing flowers in my front yard so that any time someone passes by, she gets a small amount of pleasure from seeing beauty.

  20. Finally recovered from the day in my own suburban garden.

    I read this this morning and fell in love with your rose garden.

    I wish I had the patience and time to give roses the care they demand.

    Though as ever you are an inspiration.

    xo J

    1. @flwjane, The thing is California’s not too humid, and is warm but has a cool winter so roses aren’t that much work. And I make no effort to keep them perfect – spots, yellowing leaves, and all.

  21. I love your roses. I have a difficult time keeping my one rose bush alive. I admire your diligence and care for them to look so lovely. The one thing I have found to help keep the Japanese beetles away, is to plant garlic cloves around it. The smell of garlic keeps the beetles away!

  22. “like a rose embowered
    by it’s own green leaves
    by warm winds deflowered
    till the scent it gives
    makes faint with too much sweet
    those heavy-winged thieves”

    1. except Shelley would never have written “it’s” when he meant to write “its”. whoops.

  23. Love your roses. I planted some but have really neglected them but they came back with beautiful blooms. I feel like the worst gardener ever but oh how I appreciate my roses. Went for a walk with my daughter and had a rose smell festival appreciating all the local gardens – some of the scents were amazing. We keep returning to those gardens on our regular walks.

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