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in the dirt again

The end of snow here means the beginning of my annual pull between opposing forces—my desire to grow things in the terrible dirt of my backyard and my miserable luck at same. To get you up to speed from an earlier post:

The next year—last year—I persevered. I planted a second rose, Miss Edith, even though what remained of Miss Antonia was uninspiring at best. I bought a variety said to be hardy enough for winters here, just like I had with the first one, but this time I went with one that offered a pale yellow bloom. Edith thrived in a way Antonia never had, growing nearly three feet in one year. Antonia gave up a few small blossoms and then gave up the ghost, but Edith’s glossy green leaves and tall canes didn’t give me a single flower. I chalked it up to the dismal summer we had here last year, which ruined crops raised by professionals. I still took it hard. 

And this spring, I brought home yet another rose. Miss Iseult went straight into the hole left behind by Antonia, and Miss Edith went straight back to work, growing more healthy canes and thick leaves. It was a summer to die for here, sunny and hot with plenty of rain. If Edith were going to cough up any flowers, I would have thought this would be the year. Still nothing. “Maybe she’s a tomboy,” I said. “Maybe she’s really an Edmund. Or an Emilio.” Maybe she was offended that I didn’t give her a proper companion, as Miss Iseult never bothered to add an extra leaf before taking her own dirt nap.

Miss Edith did surprise me last year with one bloom in late September. She spends her summers playing rough-and-tumble games with the neighborhood boys and is more at home in canvas sneakers and dungarees. (Isn’t dungarees a great word? Let’s bring it back, you and me.) I’m holding out hope that by the end of the summer she’ll trot out at least one more flower. It’s the perfect end to a summer flick, isn’t it? The tomboy shows up in a dress and lipgloss and all the boys go silent.

I meant to dig up the remains of Miss Iseult months ago, and to plunk the next hope-of-a-rose in her place. (Miss Olivia, Miss Ondine, Miss Ophelia….) The dismal spring rains brought all my gardening failures to the fore. It was pointless to spend any more money on rose bushes for this place. I should plant spruces and boxwoods and let them bore me to tears with their ugliness and determination to thrive away no matter where they’re planted. In disgust, I left Miss Iseult’s corpse where I’d planted her last year, in the spot vacated by Miss Antonia.

When I came back from PEI, Miss Iseult had leaves. One cane poking through the earth, and leaves rimmed with russet. Not a weed setting up shop at random. And Tuesday, this happened.

A blossom fit for a boutonniere, if that. But to hell with comparisons to anyone else’s roses. Miss Iseult is not only alive, but also quite a lady. That’ll teach me to give up on anything in this world, ever.