The Roses at the End of the Road is the tale of my life in Heath and the roses that lived, and died, in the gardens at End of the Road Farm.
My first rose was the delicately pink Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, followed by a number of elegant ladies like Madame Legras de St. German, the Queen of Denmark and the Wife of Bath. However there were a few gentlemen like Martin Frobisher and William Baffin. The Rose Walk famously added a collection of Farmgirls, Rachel, Alli, and Mabel which came from other local farms in Heath.
For your reading delectation the following is a sample chapter
Saint Fiacre Sat Here.
Did you know, Saint Fiacre is considered the patron saint of gardeners? You can go to some garden centers and buy a statue of the good saint with his spade.
As it happens Saint Fiacre is also the patron saint of French taxi drivers. In Paris there is a large taxi rank outside the Church of Saint Fiacre. A slang term for French taxi drivers is “le fic”, a colloquial reference to “figs” or that occupational hazard of taxi drivers – hemorrhoids. Inside the Church of Saint Fiacre is a stone bearing the imprint of the good saint’s bottom; sitting on this stone is said to cure that ailment.
One late June day my husband returned from working in the field shouting with excitement. “Wait til you see what I found!”.
I was confused at the sight of a somewhat triangular concave boulder.
“Sit on it!” he ordered.
I sat and was comfortable because the concavities were so well shaped to my bottom, but still confused.
“Don’t you see what this means? This means that St. Fiacre was here! He walked these Heathan hills and left his imprint for us gardeners just as he did for the French taxi drivers!”
I knew about the French taxi drivers and protested that we gardeners did not suffer from hemorrhoids.
“No, but we do suffer from a gardener’s particular problem,” he said lugging the stone to a log section I used as a stool. He set the rock on the log and sat me down on it. “Now, do you feel a cure taking place?”
I sat on the stone, my bottom tenderly supported and I looked around. The sky was an azure dome, birds were singing and turning somersaults in the air. The breezes were fragrant with the scent of my roses, blooming in shades of pink and white. The lawn, weedy patch though it was, was cool and green beneath my bare feet.
I sat in silence for a moment, then sighed. “I don’t know what you mean about a cure, but just look at this perfect day,” I said. “And I think the garden looks perfect, too.”
“There you have it. You are cured of gardener’s syndrome of never sitting to simply admire the beauty of the garden. You have put aside the spade and trowel, the weeder and pruners. You’ve ignored the weed, the beetle and aphid and admired the whole.”
Well, I wasn’t totally cured, of course, but I do sit periodically on the stone for booster shots.
The Annual Rose Viewing at the End of the Road is our ritual event to encourage everyone to stop and smell the roses.
One visitor this year asked me if roses were a youthful passion, if I had loved them always. I had to confess that this was not the case. Like so many others I thought roses were fussy plants requiring much more care than I could imagine supplying. Even after reading Katherine White’s book, Onward and Upward in the Garden, even after becoming fascinated with the romantic idea of the ancient gallicas, albas, and damasks, I did not picture myself as a rose gardener.
When we first moved to Heath I was devoted to the idea of vegetable gardens, but in 1981 I planted my first hardy old fashioned rose. I was seduced by the provocative name, Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, as well as by its history as a favorite of the Empress Josephine. Without giving much thought to the ramifications, I planted Passionate Nymph’s Thigh next to the unused front door and right under the roof line where it has endured ice and snow cascading down onto it for over 20 years. In self defense it leans away from the house and towards the sun, but blooms every year in a shade of delicate flesh pink. It thrives with the stamina that you might expect of any passionate nymph.
Our own Saint Fiacre stone still sits in the Rose Walk between Madame Zoetmans and Therese Bugnet, across from the Queen of Denmark. Visitors to the Rose Viewing sit on the saint’s stone, or touch it, and we all ignore whatever tasks have been left undone. We walk under the azure dome of sky, and inhale the breeze-borne scent of roses. We forget our chores, admire the beauty that we have cultivated and give thanks.
If you would like to buy a copy of the book send me an email order at commonweeder.com and I will respond and make arrangements. If you want to read the book right now, Kindle editions are now on sale for only 99 cents.