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A Rose for the Nose

Since my Mental Pauseģ column talks about bugs this month, I thought it would be a good time to talk roses. And Iím going to tell you some places to view them locally. And if you know of some more, please do e-mail me back.

However, first, I will start with my own rose bush. And Ė no Ė you cannot come over to see it.

My home is the site of one cherished rose bush named Tropicana. The bush came with the house so it has to be at least 35 years old. It is such a trooper. Since I can seldom bring myself to prune it, it strains skyward each summer to unfurl its splendor. Scraggly and infrequently watered, it has never ceased to amaze me that it puts out a couple dozen pancake-sized blooms that rival the succulence of an ocean sunset.

Now, 24 roses arenít that much. I know that in my head because I see bushes, during my walks and bike rides, which are so laden with blooms that their owners canít pinch them back fast enough. So, to my chagrin, they lay on the ground, rotting.

But when a flower is in MY yard, it is an object of unadulterated worship. I do, I freely admit, talk to my Secret when she unfurls her yellow-tinged pink petticoats. And Gertrude Jekyll (Iím not kidding, thatís the roseís name) only gives me half a dozen blooms but their purplish pink petals perfume the air with the most heavenly scent.

Then thereís Fragrant Apricot. Oh, sheís a tangerine beauty!

Notice how Iím mentioning fragrance? It breaks my heart that people seem to be planting and hybridizing more and more unscented roses. Iíll take smell over longevity and bug resistance any day. Just let me get at those aphids that green my thumbs as I squish them.

Smell is the gardenís sensuality.

Iím in Nirvana once I don my scruffy straw hat and muddy gardening gloves and get eye level with my garden. The golden slant of light at summerís eve illuminates my roses and makes shojis of my lilies, smiling pansies, fading hydrangeas . . .

So, where do I go when I want to see roses? One place, which has been written about ad infinitum, is St. Johnís Chapel in Monterey. There, against the wavy roof and weathered red boards of the esteemed church is a modest, but beautifully variegated, rose garden. And every rose is labeled.

If you want LOTS of roses, exactly one mile from the mouth of Carmel Valley Road, next to Rancho Canada golf course, is Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula. It is abundant with neatly lines rose bushes of every fragrance and hue, all neatly labeled. When the church is staffed the gate is open and all are welcome. When the gate is closed for deer protection you can still walk a meditation labyrinth there. And just down the road a peck, past fields of Earthbound Farmís organic blooms is the most wonderful little Flower Farm, where you can pluck your own roses and anything else that grows there in abundance.

Of course, take a walk in downtown Pacific Grove or Carmel and you can be sated by roses in neatly tended gardens. And Carmel Mission Basilica, where I first met artist Evgeny and Lydia Baranov (also in my book), has ancient and glorious roses too.

Now that I think of it, my love of roses must date back to my motherís proper queenís garden, with rows of delightful bushes lining the spokes of gravel pathways in between them. She always chose them for fragrance too . . ..

A little poem:

Garden, garden, garden

Pull weeds, work

Then rest in the flowers . . .

All answers will come.




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