Roses; Memory and the Gift of 17 Rose Bushes

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I adore roses.  Roses on their stalks and heady smell.  Taller than me when I was young.  I stood in Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s respective yards (next door to each other) and had my first internal lesson of aromatherapy.  Nature teaching me early.

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I have grown roses in pots, roses in the gardens, and have a granddaughter named Maryjane Rose.  The tall, cut stalks in the store ready for Valentine’s Day are not my favorite flower to receive (I do love tulips), but in the garden and cut from an old varietal, roses are so powerfully beautiful.

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Medicinally, roses are a mild nervine.  That means they are a supporting actor in medicines for sleep, stress, and pain.  Particularly stress.  All one has to do is feel the effect of smelling a rose to note its healing properties for calming.  Spiritually, it is love medicine and we use it in our teas to help create more love for oneself. It is a lovely tonic to drink and a beautiful water or oil to apply to skin.  It is, of course, the flower of romance and beauty.

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Yesterday, I had a few moments to actually walk around our property.  There are many stumps along the fence line because Siberian Elm is insistent upon taking over the world.  (I will use it for medicine.)  Among the stumps I found new stalks.  New stalks of rose!  Many of the stumps are ROSES!  I wonder how old they are.  Perhaps planted by the mistress that first built this home. Some are feeding off of the elms.  Some are their own masses made up of smaller stumps, some two feet in diameter, and life shooting out of them here in this milder climate.  Seventeen rose bushes from what I could see.  They have been fiercely neglected, but they waited for me.

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I have five in pots that I brought with me that are ready to be added to the garden.  Perhaps one day my grandchildren will walk through my gardens and remember fondly the towering rose bushes and how they made them feel.

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How to Create a Rose Garden in Less than 30 Minutes

A beautiful rose garden in less than thirty minutes?  What about digging a bed?  Amending the soil?  What if the area is just straight prairie and nothing grows but yucca?  You can indeed start a rose garden anywhere.

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Here are the requirements:

Despite the common advice that roses love full sun, here in Colorado (and I bet in other places too) roses like a little reprieve from the harsh rays of summer.  Roses love east and west exposures.  Never north, not enough sun.  I just planted our new rose garden on the south side but the shed to its west will block some sun at the height of summer.

You need a water source.  Roses enjoy water.  Can’t stick them in the prairie and hope they can fend for themselves.  I give the roses two inches of water every other day.  If it rains, I skip the watering.  The  straw surrounding the rose allows six inches of space so not to suffocate the plant.  This creates a perfect hole to water into.  I just fill that hole and it filters into the ground.

I do not fertilize my roses with chemicals, not even “organic” ones.  My organic fertilizer consists of a good pile of chicken bedding on top of the rose bush in autumn to shield it from winter.  Every time it rains or snows the fertilizer seeps into the ground.  In mid-summer a mulch of goat bedding around the base helps contribute nitrogen to the roots every time it rains or gets watered.  If you don’t have farm animals, a bag of compost can be used.  Mushroom compost can be poured three inches from the base circling the plant.  Then topped with mulch.  This keeps the soil moist, the nutrients slowly seeping in, and we don’t accidentally burn the plant.

The only pruning I do on roses is to remove dead branches.

All roses available for purchase at the big box stores or local nurseries will grow here.  This time of year buy bare root, they are still sleeping.  During the growing season any rose bush can be planted, even the miniature ones in the grocery store in pots meant as gifts.

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Now, let’s get started.  You can use the porch as your boundary or if you are putting it in the middle of the yard like I did, you will want to contain your garden.  I gathered the thick pieces of wood that I found last summer.  One could use bricks, 2×4’s, or old gnarly branches to create any kind of artistic image you see fit.  Gardening is art.

Don’t hurt your back now by digging up the whole garden!  If you aren’t growing anything there why would you spend the energy and resources to amend the whole thing while exposing the place to sun so that the weeds have a lovely place of amended soil to grow in?  Just stick to the planting at hand.  Do remove any large weeds though.

Dig a hole about a foot across and down. Fill half way with water. Let it drain.  Place rose in hole.  Fill hole half way with organic garden soil. Fill the hole the rest of the way with the soil that was removed surrounding the neck to keep the new plant sturdy.

Anywhere you didn’t plant place thick layers of newspaper down and cover with four inches of straw.

Give the rose another drink.

Step back and take in your work!

To add things to this garden, simply remove a chunk of straw, add garden soil, plant.  Cover anywhere that is not a plant or seed.

A birdbath, comfy chair, and good book finish the space.