(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 25, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
I received a dmail from a friend in Arizona.
“I’m sending you a surprise, will you be home to receive it?”
“Sure, I’ll be home, but what are you sending?” I asked in return.
“Can’t tell you, it’s a surprise.”
So I watched the mail, and one steamy August morning there was a knock on the door. The day was heavy with rain, gray, dreary and hot.
The postman said: “You have a large package, just wanted to make sure you were home.”
And he walked back to his vehicle in the rain and unloaded the very large package. He carried it inside for me because it was heavy, he said, and placed it on end on the floor.
I thanked him, and immediately looked at the return address: Arizona.
Ahhh, my surprise was here, and I truly love surprises.
I was very careful opening the package. It must have been sealed with miles and miles of clear tape, the kind made for mailing. It took me awhile to get the top opened, and when I did, all I could see was bubble wrap, so I slowly removed it. Miles and miles of it.
“A tree, a little tree,” I thought when I could see a bit of limp foliage. “Ben sent me a tree!” So out came the bubble wrap, the empty plastic bags, the crumpled newspaper, but it wasn’t a tree, it was a little rose bush, safely planted in a very large pot. I had to laugh, because there were more miles of tape across the top of the pot, and yes, it had kept every grain of soil right where it was supposed to be, around the rose.
That was on August 20, 2009.
I took it out to my deck, the rain was pouring down and it was not a good day to plant a rose bush. But I put a saucer under the pot, removed all the tape and the paper towels that were around the little plant, and left it to the rain. I headed back inside to Dave’s Garden and sent my friend, Ben Hill, a Dmail.
“Ben, it’s here, this wonderful rose bush is here! Thank you so very much, I love it. Now tell me about this rose from Arizona.”
And Ben told me the story that you can read today along with mine. I learned that it is a very special rose indeed, and it came to me from New Orleans by way of Arizona. But that is not the end of my Peggy Martin rose story. Not by a long shot. It was a special gift, you see, it has a history that just keeps right on giving.
I did not get it planted until mid September, what with one thing or another interfering with my gardening chores. First, I could not decide where it was going to live, and then I worried that planting a rose bush in Kentucky in August was asking for trouble. It is no doubt the hottest month of the year. But while the rose waited on my back deck, I also pondered its permanent location. Here? No. There? No. Then I took a look at what was left of my redbud tree. Last January’s ice storm had nearly demolished it.
Its limbs were sparse, what was left of them, but I had been reluctant to cut it down. I started thinking that my Peggy Martin rose might love to grow up the remains of that redbud tree. And I would like that too. So finally the day came when I planted the rose at the base of my mangled redbud. It looked pretty good, lush and full. Much fuller than when I first received it.
I watered it well, and mentioned to it that I could not wait till next summer when it would be sure to bloom. That was September 20, a month after I had received it. I fully expected it to be traumatized from the trip and from the transplant, not to mention the change in zones.
However, I did not count on the persistent strength of that one Peggy Martin rose. On October 6, my brother’s birthday, I did a little walk around in my yard. I was getting my plants ready for winter and I checked on my rose. Oh! I looked again. Did a double take. There were buds and two little blooms on Peggy Martin. My goodness, a rose that had traveled many miles, was then transplanted into a spot in an entirely different zone, has buds in October? Surely not.
Oh yes it did! Now it is not unusual for roses to bloom in late October here, it happens all the time in my yard, but it never happens to a newly planted-in-September rose. Never.
I walked outside on October 20, and there it was, blooming just like it owned the place. Wow! What a rose. And it was the prettiest rosy pink you ever did see. It stood out like a rosy beacon mixed in as it was with all the fall color. I ran inside and wrote to Ben.
“Ben! Oh Ben! She’s really blooming!” I wrote, “And she is so very beautiful! Thank you so much, Ben, from my heart. I’m sure she’ll be lovely in the spring.” If one can chuckle on Dmail, Ben chuckled.
Fall happened, leaves fell, frosts arrived. My birthday is November 20, and I did my annual birthday walk around in my yard. I was bent over, picking up sticks, kicking leaves around, and glanced up for just a second. That amazing rose was blooming all over. In November! It was blooming for Thanksgiving, and still blooming on December 15. I am almost afraid to look this morning, but surely it will take a winter rest.
Isn’t it wonderful how the strength and beauty of one small plant can capture our hearts? I don’t think anything in my garden has ever given me any more pleasure than this wonderful surprising rose. I will be forever grateful for Ben’s kindness in sharing it with me.
What Ben does not know is that I had a personal connection to Hurricane Katrina myself. My late husband grew up in the Beaumont, Texas area, and during the hurricane, we had 9 members of his Texas family staying at our home for two weeks. They had no other place to go, and we were their only family out of Katrina’s path.
Thank you, Ben, you have truly given to me a gift that will last forever. Gifts from the heart, isn’t that what this season is all about?
And to all of you, from my heart to yours, may you have the blessings you need on this day.
Except for the thumbnail, the photos show the progressive growth of my Peggy Martin rose from August 20, 2009, when it first appeared in Kentucky from Arizona, through December 15, when it finally decided to rest for the winter. The thumbnail was taken in late November.