By Teresa Swartz Roberts
Blog 41. Copyright 2021
I didn’t plant the rose garden outside my front door. I tried tending it by myself, but the weeds had more stamina than I had. The plants looked like grass–innocent enough, but they procreated faster than I could pull them, spreading from flower bed to flower bed, and I worried that I would start losing the well-established rose bushes. I needed help.
The man who mows our lawn, edges, weed-eats, and blows away the clippings added weeding the flower beds to his routine. He also began cutting back the bamboo, a grass that doesn’t look like grass, that was overtaking our fruit trees along the edge of the back yard.
When we first moved into the house at the end of a summer, My Honey was excited to care for the fruit trees and then put up the bounty of pears, figs, peaches, and blackberries that would be produced back behind the house. He also decided he would prune the roses. It’s supposed to be done in winter, and, even though Georgia is a warm place, the grass doesn’t grow enough in the winter to mow it. We wouldn’t have to call our guy, and Frank would get a taste of gardening, which he’s always enjoyed.
I was excited to take care of the roses. I had always wanted to try gardening. Mother helped me when I was little to plant some zinnias and bachelor buttons beside the back yard fence. When we moved to a house that had a flower box, I planted begonias for Mothers Day. I generally didn’t have a lot of success with growing things. Truthfully, I tended to kill plants.
This time would be different. Since my Parkinson’s diagnosis, I had realized that someday was now, not the distant someday that holds all of the promises we make to ourselves: “Someday I will learn to paint. Someday I will write fiction. Someday I will tend a beautiful garden.” I read about roses and learned that deadhead was a term that meant more than fans of The Grateful Dead. I would plan my days so that I would spend my most energetic time, midmorning, in the garden a couple of times a week. I figured I could handle working on the flowers a little at a time. I was wrong.
Parkinson’s makes me tired. The weeding took all of my energy, and I found myself spending the rest of the day recuperating. Even without Parkinson’s, I would have given up on the gardening eventually. It just didn’t bring me joy. For the record, I wrote a novella and loved the process, but I pretty much got fiction out of my system. Painting, on the other hand, continues to delight me, and I envision continuing to do it as my disease progresses.
My Honey discovered menacing red wasps in the pear tree, and the only way to deprive them of the pears was to pick the fruit early. He did that our second summer here, and he was able to make several jars of pear butter from cooking down the too-hard not-quite-ripe fruit.
When we moved in at the end of that first summer, our neighbor had been picking the figs because the previous owners had invited her to. She stopped when she realized that we wanted them, and we waited for the figs to ripen the next summer. Birds ate the figs. All of them. By the following summer, last year, we had a net protecting one of the trees, one unprotected that the neighbor could pick from, and another tree kind of hidden away. We watched a video on figuring out when figs are ripe and picked them. I started looking up fig recipes. There aren’t a lot of recipes, but we had a lot of figs. Our favorite was a mixture I created to top baked sweet potatoes.
The peach tree turned out to be quite small, and there was only one measly blackberry bush. Not that we’re not thankful, but we don’t have to worry about canning the fruit.
One of the rose bushes did not bloom last summer. I figured we were responsible. There had been too many weeds when I was trying to take care of the garden, or we had pruned back too much growth. The bush still grew and had leaves and thorns, just no flowers.
Then a couple of weeks ago, on a warm day, I noticed buds on that very rose bush. Not just a couple. Dozens. The rose bush is making up for lost time now with an explosion of color. It’s outdoing itself. That rose bush is trying to tell me something. Maybe all of the plants are.
If I can’t do something by myself, and it’s worth doing, like weeding, I should seek help. Sometimes something like wasps will get in the way, and you have to either give up the prize or accept a lesser version of it. Big expectations do not always equal big crops. There is usually enough to go around, and you might have to get creative to use the bounty you have.
Sometimes you don’t bloom. You are full of thorns, and you blow around in the warm wind, and you think there is no future. Then the time is right, and you have buds and color all around you. The petals, even surrounded by thorns, were worth the wait.