One of the glories of gardening in Texas is watching roses blooming in winter. Of course, it's not strictly winter yet, not until the solstice, which is a month away. But anytime after Thanksgiving is "winter" to this Midwestern girl, and this Duchesse de Brabant is a special treasure for its all-season bloom. It's a tea rose, dating from the 1850s--one of those antique roses that stubbornly defy climatic extremes and human neglect. Their stubbornness must certainly be rooted in their simplicity: these are non-hybridized plants, growing on their own roots (what a novel idea!), thriving on my inattention. They get pruned around Valentine's day and sometimes in August, but otherwise, they're on their own, and I love them for their independent spirit.
Some of my roses are shrubs, like Duchesse, others are climbers. Here is the Evangeline, an exuberant 10-year-old rambler blooming this morning beside our back deck. This one is almost thornless and is easily kept in check, but I made a mistake with another climber, a thorny red rose I planted too near a walkway. Ouch!
And there's this one, a pink noisette whose name I have forgotten but whose beauty and fragrance surprises me with each new bloom.
I think of my love for these roses as a practical passion. For the little I do for them, they reward me with months of pleasure. They laugh off cold weather and thrive in heat. No mildew for these guys; they sneer at black spot; and they bloom and bloom again, as the weather and their inclinations suit. Their only fault is a rampant enthusiasm that is often hard to contain.
What more could I ask of life? A few roses in winter, rewarding work, a shelf of good books, a sock on my knitting needles, children who are independent spirits, friends who share, and quiet days that hold all the beauties I can possibly manage.
Reading Note. I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.--Eleanor Roosevelt