The bulk of the main root hid beneath the rotting wood deck, waiting to be discovered. It was big and dark as a beef bone. For years someone chopped it off at soil level to keep it from crowding out the vegetable garden, so for years the energy of the plant burrowed back into the root. Last spring, spying a few red leaves poking up next to the chives plant, I recognized a rose bush trying to live.
Getting to know our new garden has been like excavating the gardens of Babylon. A long time ago someone with expert gardening knowledge set the bones and structure in place. Large willows anchor the soggy back corners, soaking up extra water in the spring. Red twig dogwoods border the back and sides with a flush of color in the winter. Crabapple trees lean over the lawn to show off their colors and pines trees provide crunch underfoot with needles and cones. In the shadows wild ginger and sweet woodruff sit quietly while the peonies and iris bend to the sun.
Although the garden clearly started out well, over time and across multiple owners, it suffered from the disastrous effects of an over zealous lawn service. All the shrubs had bad haircuts, wearing stubby branches that sprouted out at the ends with witches brooms. I figured the most humane thing to do was just let the whole thing grow.
Almost immediately the knotted forsythia threw out its wiry arms in a sun salute. The stunted privets poured forth graceful boughs that make them the beauties of the backyard despite their lowly reputation. The burning bush shot up and out like the flamethrower it wants to be.
All in all it is a happy garden now, especially in the pink flush of late spring.
The school year is almost over for my daughter, a bud of a woman herself, waiting for her opportunity to burst out and claim her own life. Being fifteen she wobbles on the stepping stones between adolescence and young adulthood, calling me Mama one moment and snapping at me the next. There are thorns beneath that flower, too.
We play this game back and forth. I say something I think is helpful and she lashes out. I am hurt and she tiptoes back. Our voices rise a few notes in apology and life continues. All is soon forgotten.
I remember myself at her age, excited and scared at the same time, looking for some sort of guidance, but not asking for any.
Last summer the rose root revealed its true self. It is not a dainty tea, a tough rugosa, or even a rangy rambler. It is a climber. In its second year of freedom it grew ten feet. Over winter it did not lose one single cane. Its flowers are blood red.
This is the year the garden will shine, I think to myself. This is the summer I have waited and worked for, moving plants to better spots, dividing up unruly ones, allowing others to stay where they are, like the rose.
The bulk of the work is done and I wait for the heavy pink rose buds to ferment to red. Its strong canes wave like thorny tentacles in the wind, as if searching for something sturdy to lean onto, although it doesn’t seem to need anything.