“You don’t want to hate your garden,” Jane says, and I can see why she might. Bunch grass infests every square inch, choking everything below knee-high. From within the canes of the rosebushes they double-dare me to go after them.
“I didn’t have these weeds before I spread some mulch from Home Depot. I spent two days weeding last month and it’s worse now than ever.”
I’m not sure I’d blame the mulch. One grass gone to seed can, like a khan with fifty wives, sire an army of invaders. There’s nothing to be done but gird loins, unsheathe hori-hori, and attack. Grunt yanking, bagging and toting to the truck, staunching the blood flow. One good thing: thanks to an extended rainy season the roots are less tenacious than they might be.
Jane doesn’t hate her garden. She loves it, especially her David Austin roses. ‘Belle Story’ is her favorite at the moment, although in its first two years it nearly got “shovel-pruned” several times; such a dud. Then, for some reason it perked up and has been a “glamorpuss” ever since, flaunting pink, semi-double flowers. “It’s not goofy-gangly,” she says, “like so many David Austins. They’re ramblers, after all. The ‘Abraham Darbys’ are completely goofy-gangly but the flowers and the fragrance are so out of this world, it’s all worth it. On-line everybody is talking about ‘Jude the Obscure’. Isn’t that a great name? I’m going to try and get it.”
She also has ‘Jayne Austin’, named after the breeder’s daughter, “It’s wonderful, mid-size, upright, buff golden flowers. Over there is ‘Pat Austin,’ named after his wife. It’s a gorgeous copper but kind of gawky and spindly.”
How sweet of you, dear, to name this gawky and spindly rose after me.
Jane and I settle into a working silence, she pruning, me weeding. I can’t help but notice all the seeds being scattered as I make my inexorable way toward the sea. What is to prevent the weeds from returning pronto, like the Taliban? Nada.
I think of rose names instead of hopeless battles. Ladies. Gertrude Jekyll. Madame Plantier. One of my clients came home with ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from Costco or someplace equally horticultural, and I was expecting to shovel-prune it after a year’s trial, but it turned out sexy golden. Happily did I put my nose into her clefts. Some years ago I saw ‘Nancy Reagan’ naked in a Jackson/Perkins box on shelves at Flowercraft. The flower in the picture was red, as I recall. I imagined it as resembling the long stem ones you find in cheap restaurants exuding an embalmed charm.
Better, I guess, than no charm at all.