Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Old Roses

I'm reading this book, penned by Robin Chotzinoff, who also writes a People With Dirty Hands blog:

It was a gift from my friend Michelle 12 years ago. I read it then and am revisiting it because (a) it's nearly spring, and (b) it's a captivating book of stories about curious gardeners and their pursuits.

The first chapter follows the trials and tribulations of rose rustlers -- people who track down antique or old roses and steal cuttings. The story takes place in Texas, where you can apparently find some great old roses in cemeteries and pueblos. The appeal of the old rose is their strong and unique scents and their ability to grow anywhere in almost any condition. When the rose rustlers in the story find an old rose, they take a cutting, put it in dirt, and the roses seem to take root. Just like that.

This idea intrigues me. I've never started a rose cutting, but it seems like an interesting challenge. I'm not sure Vermont is the place for old roses though, as winter often takes it's toll on roses. I have a few in-ground bushes that are sheltered (and mulched) in the winter, but I can never be certain they'll survive year to year. I also grow roses in two pots every summer -- as annuals.

But I'm going to keep my eye out for any rambling, scenty, thorny bushes that look like they've been around a century or so, and see what I can do with it.

The chapter ends with these words to live by:

"Old roses, by example, are full of instructions on how to live right. They stand for certain things I like to consider true. Such as:

1. There is more than one way to be beautiful.
2. Survival is a noble goal.
3. Good climates are in the eye of the beholder, not the tourism board.
4. If you are attacked by disease, abandonment, or a bad chain of events, do not necessarily despair. There is always the chance you were bred to be tough.
5. Everyone should not smell the same. "


  1. Hi Patty, What fun to hear from you , number one, and about gardening especially! I loved reading it and I'll check it out again. I'm just learning to do this. So far, I have my name and a pretty green background!
    Love, Kathy
    PS It was wonderful to see Mia this morning. She was trying out the "little" chairs that she used to sit in!

  2. Wow! Twelve years ago? Good thing WE haven't aged any - in spirit anyway. Glad you mentioned the book. I just went to the library to get it and finally read the whole thing. I'm getting the itch for spring too and it sounds like a good way to start the season.