The days have turned sweltering here and I am wilting. So are the roses.
My mother’s colleagues presented her with a small rose bush when her mother died and in the seven or eight years since, the roses have grown and climbed and blossomed in the most beautiful manner. Each June they quietly remind me of my boisterous grandmother whose golden hair and blue eyes I inherited.
I think it was Gertrude Stein who said, ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’, but what relation this coarse tangle of roses bears to the cellophane-wrapped and de-thorned packets chilled at the supermarket I can’t imagine. Anything that comes with packet of flower food cannot be a rose in the truest sense.
But these roses! True as they come. These roses make me giddy with joy and secretly plotting how to become a florist – just so I might spend all day heady with joy on the mere scent of the things. My vice, if ever there was one. I wonder if they have meetings for that?
Dripping with summer rain, their all-enveloping smell overpowering, and petals drooping, they seem to breathe romance. That their thorns are ridden with bacteria, the mildest prick eliciting a throbbing infection, seems to add to the flower’s charm. Rumour has it that the poet Rilke died from a leukaemia induced by a hand pricked while gathering roses for a friend in his garden. I don’t think this is true, but it adds to the flower’s mystique nonetheless.
Once I thought the Donauradweg was the solution to all the world’s problems, but I’m beginning to realise a rose bush does a pretty good job too. Presented with a bunch of freshly-shorn garden roses, how could anyone fail to smile?
I can’t remember now if my grandmother liked gardening, but something tells me she’d have loved these roses anyway.