Tonight, there would be a killing frost. I could feel it in my joints. I straightened up from digging carrots, leaned on the shovel and looked around the garden. The sun was nearing the western horizon in a clear sky. There were no clouds to blanket the earth with frost-defying warmth.
In the row next to the carrots was a poinsettia. Before nightfall I wanted to dig it out of the ground and take it into the house. As always when I looked at the plant, I marveled at how it had doubled in size over the last four months. Its leaves were beautiful; large, dark green and plentiful.
A tea rose bush next to the poinsettia caught my eye. Its leaves were still a glossy and healthy green. Red roses in various stages of blooming covered the bush. All that loveliness would be burned by the frost if I didn’t pick the flowers to be enjoyed indoors. Pulling a scissor from my pocket, I began to snip stems with buds and blossoms.
In the house later that evening, I filled a pint jar with water for the ten roses. Then I poured more potting soil into the oversized planter holding the poinsettia.
The small rose buds unfolded to full bloom in the warmth of the house during the following weeks.
Even the poinsettia bloomed by a window in an unused bedroom. The only light that touched its leaves was daylight provided by the window. Bract leaves grew on the tips of each stem and as fall edged into winter they slowly turned red. Within the swirl of reddening bracts, were the true blossoms; small clusters of yellow flowers.
After the roses were finished blooming, I discarded most of the stems. But two stems had such vibrant, healthy looking leaves that I kept them in the jar. Looking at the glossy, healthy rose leaves made me happy. Outside my kitchen windows, the grass on the lawn was covered by snow and the bare tree branches looked cold.
While cleaning the kitchen counter one night before Christmas, I picked up the pint jar with the last two rose stems. The first jiggle of the jar made them drop their leaves. Intending to throw the stems out, I pulled them out of the jar. Just as I was about to drop them into the wastepaper basket, I noticed small buds on the twigs and what looked like the beginnings of white roots on their cut ends. Could it be? I’ve heard of people sprouting cut roses. I’d just never seen it done.
Filling two small pots with potting soil, I carefully planted the rose stems. For the first week or two they looked healthy and ready to grow into small rose bushes. Then, one day two weeks later, I noticed one stem had turned black. Watering the healthy stem and admiring the buds on it, I acknowledged that it would have been too good to be true if both had survived.
Another week passed and I noticed the last green rose stem wasn’t so green any more and its buds were looking dry and lifeless. My heart sank and I wondered, “What did I do wrong? Should I have left the stems in the jar of water?”
The worst time of year to lose plants is in the winter, the time of year a gardener’s heart is the most vulnerable. My green dreams of having two rose stems turn into beautiful new little rose bushes won’t be coming true.
We true gardeners are a resilient lot, however. Although I am sad about what happened with the roses, I’m looking forward to spring planting and starting again with nursery stock.