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Tuesday, 08 November 2011


By Johna Ferguson

My first remembrance of roses is the bountiful climbing bush that grew on the fence that ran across our back yard when I was a child. They were the most luscious orange color, so intense and yet soft. I can’t remember if they smelled in a great manner or not, but the picture of them twined around that fence is permanently embedded in my mind.

My next flashback is about gathering dead rose blossoms when my friends and I were eight years old. We carefully pulled the spent flowers off the bushes and put the petals in different baskets or boxes; reds in one, pinks, whites, yellows and oranges in others.

We were perfume makers. All year we had collected bottles from our households - ones that held vanilla, medicine, even ink bottles. These we washed and stored until the roses were blooming.

To make perfume “child style” is very easy: you just soak the petals you’ve saved in a little warm water and then put the pans or dishes the petals are in, out in the sun for a few days. All the essence is absorbed by the liquid which you pour into the bottles and viola, you have the perfect gift for your mother, aunts, cousins and friends.

Each colored batch smells a little different so you must decide whether the strong red is for mother or sister and the mild yellow or white for aunties. We saved odd bits of ribbon and each bottle was tied with a piece and with a hand made label from colored paper, our names in ink in stylish script on each.

But then we grew more sophisticated in our tastes. We next made potpourri from the dried rose petals. We mixed all the colored petals together and spread them out to partially dry on the grass on newspapers. We carefully stuffed this mixture into small net bags we had hand sewn and we threaded a narrow ribbon through the top heading of the bags to gather it all together and hold the petals in. These sachets for lingerie drawers that cost nothing would be gifts for our mothers' birthdays. At that stage we were about eleven.

From then on our house was always filled with vases of lovely roses from mother’s garden. She also had one bush of tiny pink roses outside the back door and each morning she would pin one of those unopened buds on my father’s suit lapel as he headed off to work. Oh what a tender, loving touch.

After my marriage, my husband and I lived in apartments so no way to have a garden. Finally we settled in Spokanebought a house and I started growing roses.

I didn’t have the “green thumb” my mother did and had many disasters to start with. I blamed them all on the weather - so hot and dry in the summers and so very cold in the winters.

But then we moved back to Seattle and I thought I could finally start a good garden. Little did I realize that my three young boys and a dog would play havoc with it. I learned from experience, best at that time to just have lots and lots of grass for them to tumble on.

After the boys left home, I had time and space to plant my rose garden. I planted 15 bushes but I never got into their Latin names. I just chose the ones I liked at the nursery by their color or smell. I didn’t do as my mother had, picking them for bouquets. I felt it was more natural to see the blooms in their own garden home. It was like I had planted a rainbow in my garden.

But I divorced, sold that house and moved into a series of condos. There were no yards to plant roses in. I had to be content to see them in friend’s yards. But now I have my own private yard and garden in Qingdao.

When we moved in 11 years ago, my husband bought me seven small rose bushes to plant. We’re now back in China after a year and when I look out our office window at my garden to count new blooms, I see none. The garden is hidden in view. Now a huge fig tree has sprouted and taken over a third of the garden, plus a humongous crop of purple morning glory and knee high weeds have crowded out my once lovely rose garden.

I have spent the past four days clearing it all out, but the roses that filled a small place in my heart for my homeland are withered and dying. But looking on the bright side of it all - I must say the figs are delicious.

Below are three pictures - the first looking east of the garden, the next from that yard looking west to nearby Signal Hill and one looking south over red tile rooftops to the Yellow Sea.

West of Garden

East of Garden

South of Garden

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


But I divorced. . .There were no yards to plant roses in.

I was caught up in the perfume of this rose petal piece. Why did this stand so strong in my mind? Perhaps because I'm an incurable romantic.

There should always be a place for roses. Figs too. ;-)

I love this story, using roses as a time line for your life. Each stage presented a strong activity, visual &/or emotional memory. Wish my grand kids were little, we'd try that perfume recipe.

Just beautiful..you are the best sharer..

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