Sunday, March 7, 2010

Playing Hookey

The precious and dwindling days of pruning are coming to a close. I should have spent the past week in furious catch-up, completing the pruning of Teas and Chinas and climbing roses, but instead I kept my promise to travel to Bermuda to speak to the Bermuda Rose Society.

Now before you summon up a picture of me sifting sand through my toes on the beach, let me paint a picture of gale force winds, fierce thunderstorms and rather chilly temperatures—not much different than Northern California at the moment. Roses were leafless, yet blooming. My hosts, Peter and Felicity Holmes took such good care of me that I really wasn't ready to return home today... They kept me stocked with coffee and sandwiches, cold beer and 'Dark and Stormys'—dark Bermuda rum and ginger beer—and all manner of lovely feasts.  And the whole community of old rose lovers in the Bermuda Society saw to it that I visited dozens of gardens, nurseries, and the wonderful propagation facility at Tulla Valley. Dinner parties are a splendid respite from pruning!

The roses of Bermuda are a very special thing; and while we often think in America that we invented the idea of collecting old roses and passing them around, the Bermudians have been at it a good deal longer than we have, starting in the early 1950s. They take special pride in having preserved all of the roses that have been found on the islands there, and passing them around so that Bermuda is  full of roses, peaking out from every hedgerow of hibiscus, and spilling over the old limestone walls, and climbing up to the glistening white roofs that make Bermuda such a beautiful place.

Over these years the Bermudians have taught us a lot about preservation, and I tried to share with them just how important their efforts have been to the old rose community. Such a dedicated group of people, and they haven't let up in more than half a century.

Home now and back to pruning, with just over a week to prune; I'm hopeful we'll have less than 1000 roses left unpruned by the deadline. That will be a feat worth striving for!

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