I live in the city — I mean, really, the city…so when I refer to my “garden” I am talking about the the 4 foot by 10 foot stretch of post-construction dirt rubble that was used to fill in the hill in the front of our house, some 40 years ago. I am quite lucky, since I have the space in front of two houses in our row (the house next door is a rental property belonging to a friend, where I am also allowed to garden), but considering that I grew up with a full acre to garden in, well, you get the idea…it is small. But over the years of my experimentation, my success and my failures with various plants, I have put together a garden that suits me: it is on its best days, a chaotic mess of color and texture, with no plan or reason to it…on its worst days, it is overgrown with weeds and dead buds crying out to be chopped off.
But every year, the crowning glory of my little garden space is the moment when my roses bloom — this year has been a lucky one, with the cooler spring; the display has lasted longer than usual. I lost some bushes because of some home improvements last year, the rose trees desperately need to be straightened and tied up again, but the blooms and the fragrance are amazing.
And, also every year, neighbors stop me on the street and ask me what I do to have such glorious roses. They think that I have some amazing secret, some special recipe plant food, some trick that creates the glorious display.
Do you know what I do for my roses? I do nothing. Literally nothing. Okay, I prune them in the dead of winter, but that is only so they don’t turn into an impassible jungle worthy of Miss Haversham’s country estate.
I do nothing.
I’ve been in a pretty dark place for the past couple of weeks, and well, I’m still there, but today as I look at my roses and think back on those conversations, I think that my roses definitely have something to teach me: not just about the beauty of God’s creation, but about how little effort on our part is required to experience it. All I did was dig a hole and plant the bush. All I ever do is give it water (never food, and water only in the most dire of drought conditions). And yet every spring, and again midsummer, and, in this climate often in the fall and well through Thanksgiving, I am rewarded with the most amazing display of beauty and color.
In the rest of my life, I plan and worry and push and work hard and cry over my false starts and what feels sometimes like a lifetime of failures and wrong turns. And never, in that part of my life, do I ever create anything as beautiful as that simple rose, for which I do nothing.
I think, today, I’ll spend a little time with my roses, and see if I can learn a thing or two.