Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roses, Irises, Peonies, and All Their Seasonal Companions


They come and go like comets. They’re special because we know they don’t stay around too long. They bloom like sudden surprises, like a letter from an old friend. We try to make the best of their visits, knowing that they’re brief. They open their faces and give us those stunning smiles. From the kitchen window we see the roses this morning. These are the two old climbing bushes that were here when we moved in seven years ago. They weren’t in good shape then; they looked like hell. I cut off the deadwood, pruned and fed them, and they started making old-fashioned deep red roses, right on time, like the timeless June bloomers they are. They’ve been right on time ever since, a few days early this year. The vines bloom for a few weeks, and then the roses fade. Then the leaves get chewed up by the rose disease which catches all the old rose plants in this climate. But they survive and bloom once more the next time the sun swings back around into position. They are a gift from eternity. The deep blue, purple-blue Siberian irises grow on themselves and flock together in a purple sea. They fill the space like a race of beautiful aliens grown up among us. Like a rain of blue diamonds. The flag irises, or bearded irises, are even more spectacular on an individual basis. Anne and I have to feast our eyes on those produced by other gardens, in others’ photographs, because ours are floundering rather than flowering this year. I don’t know why. Too crowded. Or else the skinnier but taller Siberian irises have eaten their sun. No matter. We don’t own their beauty. They bestow it where they choose. As the transcendental beauty of these queens of the late spring – peonies, roses, irises – enjoy their reign and pass away, like the centuries, the stars, new garden races raise their heads. We’re seeing dianthus, blue Ansonia, geranium perennials, the deep blue button-flowers on the spiderwort, some purple salvia, and the late spring round of lamium. Most of these are old friends too. The laurel, which appears to struggle each spring just to get to this point, as if it were born with death in its bones, has put forth its rounded pyramidal puff balls of wedding cake frosting. From the look of them we think they must be edible, sugary architectural wonders. They’re here now; enjoy them while they last. They’re set off by the foxgloves, as skinny and tapered as the laurel flowers are rounded with a sleep. Everything lives and shines and fades and teaches – about coming and going – in the same glorious moment.