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The Roses of January

The Roses of January
Jennie Condon

Here we are at the end of January, with snow falling outside, and my roses are blooming. The buds, I thought, wouldn’t survive last week’s hard frosts, but it seems I underestimated them. While I did carefully pick all of our rosebushes to be low-maintenance and hardy, this behavior still seems more than a little ridiculous.

Not only ridiculous, actually, but also not particularly good for the plant. The years that they don’t drop their foliage (which also tend to coincide with years we get post-holiday buds), I end up fighting black spot all summer. Those leaves staying wet all winter seems to create a perfect breeding ground for the fungus. Sometimes I even go out and lecture the roses about how they are meant to be deciduous. So far, this hasn’t had a noticeable effect. Perhaps this is what I get for living in the Rose City.

On the other hand, though, I have to admire the tenacity. Despite understanding the biological imperative to reproduce, as I look out the window in the dark of winter, I prefer to indulge in a little personification and think of it as working to put beauty into the world even during the hardest days. I’m curled up on my couch under a heated blanket, and out there in the snow are my pair of Mortimer Sacklers, fighting their way past freezing weather and horticultural expectations to put on one last display, holding us over till the days get longer and the rest of the garden awakes again.

In return, I’ll tend them all summer, pruning and spraying (only organic and bee-friendly, of course!) to restore them when the black spot or aphids attack, in thanks for the artistry and cheer they bring. And if I’m diligent enough, maybe I, too, can learn follow the roses’ example and bring delight to the world even in the darkest times.