17 August 2006

The miracle of the rose

Before one of the Winslow Boy performaces, Chris gave each of us a lovely yellow-with-dark-pink-streaks rose, which I took home and plunked in a vase and put in my bedroom. My usual routine with flowers is too keep them until they dry out and then toss them in the compost where they will rejoin the great circle of plant life.

I used to keep a "rose mortuary" - all the rose heads in a big bowl - but it turns out that if the humidity levels tips the wrong way, a rose mortuary can turn pretty darn rank, which really drops the romance to a pretty sad level.

Anyway, Chris's rose dried very nicely and was still in its vase one day a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some cleaning and it seemed the right time to compost the little guy. As I was carrying the vase from my bedroom to the kitchen, I noticed that the stem had dried so thoroughly that it had turned black. Or, rather, was starting to turn black starting at the flower and heading south and starting at the bottom and heading north. I'm used to seeing very dark green stems and flowers that are so dark red that they look black, but I don't remember seeing a truly black stem before.

Well, just as I was going to dump the water down the drain and cut the rose into small pieces to fit into my little compost bin in the freezer ... The Miracle of the Rose was revealed unto me. I noticed that just below the black area was a tiny new twig/leaf, maybe a half-inch long, with the leaf being nearly doll-house small. As one is supposed to do when a miracle is revealed unto one, I stood there slack-jawed and stared at it. I tried very, very hard to find some kind of resemblance to an important religious figure or the even more important Elvis, but such was denied to me. The new growth looked like --- a twig and a leaf. I checked the bottom of the stem and there were two itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy little roots. But actual roots!

So while acting very casual, so as not to scare the rose, I decided to see if it would really grow if I continued to give it the same "care" as I had provided before. I rinsed out the vase and put the rose in a small (but clean, something the vase could not in good conscience claim at that point) water glass with enough water to cover the root-ettes and put it on the bookcase in the dining room window where it will receive some (mostly indirect) sun everyday.

There's already a geranium there that the neighborhood church gave me when I moved into the condo, and it seems to be a pretty plant-friendly window. The Chinese Evergreen that I brought back from the near-dead spent many happy months convalescing on that bookcase. (It was nearly dead because it didn't enjoy its first few months in the condo, probably because I did something stupid with it.)

And just as I was thinking "I'll leave the dried petals on because they're still pretty," I slightly knocked the rose against the little shelf over the sink and each and every petal fell off. Such is the gentle humor of the rose.

For now, the rose seems pretty happy on the bookcase. The roots remain pretty tiny but the black has stopped and now there are more twigs and leaves.

Any day now I will start dithering about what, if anything, I should add to the water. One of those packets of cut flower food that one gets with cut flowers? Rooting solution? (I think I have some. Maybe.) I don't have a handy willow tree to make "willow water," but the chemical in question is also in aspirin, so maybe I should drop a ground-up aspirin in the water? Or maybe I should just stick it in some potting soil and pop a plastic bag over it so that visitors will think that I don't know that plastic bags are not toys. Hmmmm.

If any of you out there are reading this and thinking "no, no, no, you silly girl, you'll kill it that way" and have a better suggestion or two, I'd love to hear them.

If the rose remains alive and leafy, it will join the other long-term residents of the container garden on the patio next spring. Maybe one day it will bloom.

And the next time I'm home, I'll play Cyndi Lauper's cover of "La vie en rose" to encourage the little thing. Or maybe even track down Edith Piaf's original for extra encouragement.

And life will always be la vie en rose.....

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