When Ray and I moved to Ballard 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have believed you if you’d told me I’d still live here two decades later. We had stayed in our previous two apartments less than three years each, for one thing. And Ray had been given an estimate of two years left to live about 19 months prior to the move. Not that I believed it, mind you. I refused to accept that he wasn’t going to get better, somehow. For one thing, I was older. I was the one who had chronic medical conditions when we met. So I was convinced that it would be him who outlived me.
The previous two places we had lived had not had any sort of yard. They were like the archetypical city apartment, in that regard. So when we’d found a place with a small lawn and a couple of flower beds that would be ours, Ray had been ecstatic. Particularly since there was already a rose bush in one of the beds.
The rose had clearly been there a for many years, with the thickest canes being nearly three inches thick. When we moved in in February, the rose was just leafing out, with no sign of buds, yet. But it wasn’t long before enormous red roses were appearing on it. We took some pictures and shared with friends who knew a bit more about roses. More than one person guessed it was a Mr. Lincoln, a fairly well-known red rose. Later that summer, when I was digging down deep around the roots of the red rose (we were trying to excise wild deadly nightshade, which grows as a weed up here), that I found the original stamped metal tag that had come with the rose whenever it had been planted, which identified it as a Patrician. It’s a red rose that was specifically bred to emulate a Mr. Lincoln, though it is supposed to be a bit hardier.
That same spring Ray came home from a shopping trip one day with a new rose to plant at the other end of the same bed. It was labeled a Maid of Honor, which was not a rose I had heard of. I learned much later that the name Maid of Honor does not represent a recognized cultivar of a rose, but is rather a name that sounds like it ought to be a real rose breed which gets slapped on various pink or yellow roses sold by, shall we say, less than scrupulous distributors.
We didn’t know that, at the time. We planted it, took care of it, and we were both a little shocked at just how quickly it sent canes shooting up for the sky. We would get these enormous pink blooms, often in clusters above the eaves. The next spring I remember quite clearly one Friday finding a new cane that had grown to about 8 inches in length. By the next Friday, that same cane was more than 6 feet tall.
To say that it was an aggressive climbing rose might be an understatement.
So I have learned that I have to be a bit aggressive in trimming our pink rose. Not just in the fall, but throughout the growing season, as side branches soon block off the walkway, and the tall branches hang down into the driveway.
Ray died before our Maid of Honor reached its third spring. Another rose that we found that same year, a pale lavender rose whose labeled breed I have forgotten, lived only a couple more years after Ray did. But the Maid of Honor, and the original Patrician, continued to go strong.
A couple of years ago, I apparently got too aggressive at trimming the Maid of Honor, because the root stock started sending even more rapidly growing canes up. Roses don’t breed true via seed, so when you buy one at a nursery, what you get are several canes grafted off of an original (or more likely, a graft of a graft of a graft… et cetera… of an original) and onto a hardier breed of rose. Usually a wild rose or tea rose. So if you get new shoots from the root ball, they are a different kind of rose, altogether.
The root’s flowers on mine are very tiny white blossoms that almost don’t look like roses once they open all the way. It’s branches grow even fast than the pink ones, but they never get quite as thick as a pencil, so while they are very long, they droop and wind around the thicker, stronger pink branches (and anything else they can reach).
Our building is getting painted right now, and I’ve been having to trim both the white and pink branches multiple times because the rose keeps getting up around the eaves or into the porch railing. Late last week I trimmed a new tall branch, and it had a single bud near the end. So I trimmed it some more and stuck in in the vase where I had some flowers (some that I had bought myself, and some that friends brought over when they heard the news about my dad).
Sometime while I was sleeping last night, the bud began to open. So I took a picture.
Every time I stop and look at any of the buds from the Maid of Honor, I think about of Ray. Who loved to smell those pink blooms, give me a goofy grin, and ask me if I agreed that it was pretty.