Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rosa Gruss An Aachen: The Last Rose of Summer

Rosa Gruss said "Cheese" for Patsy this morning.
Photo by Patsy Lieberman
I went out to get the paper this morning and there on the stems of my rose bush remain two glorious blooms. Last year, I remember a cone flower that hung in until after Thanksgiving. Looks like our hard freeze once again is delayed thanks to global climate change. 

Rosa Gruss An Aachen is my first successful rose. It also represents my maturity as a gardener. The first roses that I bought and planted failed because I cared more about their evocative names than about their finicky needs.  "Eleanor" and "Passionate Kisses"--may they rest in peace. I had just been up to Hyde Park and toured Eleanor Roosevelt's home and retreat, Val-Kill, and was harboring a secret fantasy that I maybe could have been that great lady's friend and perhaps then, been invited to sit in those comfy chairs she kept in her living room and discussed the events of the day. 

And "Passionate Kisses," well need I say more? What else do you do on the weekends before or after you garden?

But last winter, I decided I'd let a rose chose me instead. Rosa Gruss An Aachen came about in 1909 after a German breeder named Philipp Geduldig paired the imperial Frau Karl Druschki' with the commoner 'Franz Deegan.(And I have no idea if those roses are royal or plebe, I'm just reacting to their names.)

The result was the first of the Floribundas. That term means that big heady roses with multiple petals grow in clusters from a single stem, thus seeming to defy gravity, and making for a very sturdy stem. I selected Gruss (gross name?) because my purveyor, Wayside Gardens, promised it would grow in partial shade. Here's where the maturity part comes in. I have long referred to my front fence garden, by sheer force of will, as a sun garden. It's not. It's not sunny like sunny should be, 6 to 8 hours. It's more like four or five.

Well, Gruss had a will to live, because I nearly killed her too. When the plant arrived in the mail on a Monday, I couldn't tend to her immediate needs. She should have been removed from the packaging and put into water. I stuck her on a dark shelf, still partially packaged and forgot about her until the following weekend. When I planted her, the stems stayed dead-like for what seemed like weeks this spring. And I was fairly certain that I'd failed yet again. But just as Gruss took her sweet time to green up and grow, she now refuses to give it up for winter. So in her honor, I sat on the sofa this morning, tears streaming down my face, listening to the sweet, dulcet tones of the lovely women in the group, Celtic Woman, singing Thomas Moore's 1805 poem, "The Last Rose of Summer."

'Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.
I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
From Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit,
This bleak world alone?

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