The latticework went onto the garage with much painstaking effort. There were multiple trips to the lumberyard; the selection of wood, then the trips to Sears for the masonry bits to sink the screws into the cement blocks of the garage. It was work, to be sure.
It all happened years ago– back when I was in junior high school and my arms hurt from standing in the hot summer sun as I held the wood slats up while my father (pre-sober) sweated and sweared and screwed the wood slats together until they looked like pie crust and held together and we could stain them with boat shellac so they wouldn’t fall apart that first winter. I got a sun-burn and no small number thorn scratches that day.
But the roses, they grew. At first, it was just the old, white floribunda and the garden-variety reds, but over time, we’ve added antiques that I can’t be bothered to learn the names of. I just smile and nod and go on the annual pilgrimage north to the special (eccentric, cranky) lady in Maine who sells the hardy antiques from whom my Dad likes to buy. And then we plant them along the sheltering wall, select a new spot, fertilize, water, bind up canes and prune. Year after year. They’re cream, ivory, pink, orange and peach, blood red and fuschia, a riot of colors that would make a “real” gardener cringe but are a delight to look down on from the upstairs bathroom, a spillage of rainbow the whole summer through.
No matter what else was going on with the garden– vegetables this year? Nothing a few summers– and now the raised beds, and oh, the drama of installing those– the roses were there.
But all things do weather– do age, do strain. Sometimes, they break. Suddenly, too. And this summer, under the weight of the roses and the weight of the weather (good old Irene) the lattice finally cracked. It’s been twenty-five years, after all.
The roses collapsed forward, a saddening heap of canes and dried petals in abundant colors. Dad ripped the lattice away from the wall because in the end, once something’s broken, sometimes amputation is all you can do. The canes are cut back from the rootstock and now– now the real work begins.
Not the re-building the lattice. That can wait until the spring, because now, we’ve done it once and can do it again. But the massive pile of thorns has to be dealt with– and Dad, of course, stepped on one of the screws on Day One and diabetic he, took himself (okay, I ordered him) out of commision. Leaving a pile of thorns not unlike what I imagine faced the prince seeking Sleeping Beauty. Or something.
The loppers were rusty, and in any event, I have tiny girl hands and not a lot of strength in my forearms. One of the pruning shears was far too dull, even after I found the whetstone. But the last set of shears was just right, once I applied some WD-40 and set down to work.
If I attacked the pile piece-meal, one cane at a time chopped into six-inch lengths to go into the city-mandated lawn-and-leaf bags, well. There are worse things to emulate than the mice and birds in one version of the story who helped that Prince Charming, and cut the job down to their size. It took me hours (and fewer thorn scratches this time, I’ve learned to use gloves), and I haven’t yet lopped the largest canes, the ones that require a saw– those I need help with. Maybe seeing that’s something. But the pile of unmanageable canes is now gone, and there’s only a small pile of things left to be dealt with– thorny and dense, yes, and they’ll require extra care when they’re dealt with, but they can be walked around for now.
And in the meantime, we can see the rest of the garden. There’s still work to do, but for now, the white hibiscus is blooming.