Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Stinking Rose

It was an apricot orchard once, in the middle of a valley filled with them. Blenheims. Best apricots in the world. Then it became a back yard filled with fruit and nut trees. And a worm farm. Best fertilizer in the world; worm poop. But worms are not as low maintenance as you’d think, what with having to turn them over every day, and the occasional unfortunate shovel accident. Maybe they regenerate and grow new worm bits, but it was too disturbing. Plus, they tend to tunnel out of the yard.

In the 70’s as the trees died out, Dad planted elephant garlic, lettuce, beans, horseradish and corn. Mom would yell out the back door that the water was boiling and he’d run up the path, shucking the ears as he went, and toss the fresh cob into the pot.  The lettuce had these weird little triangular contraptions over them because Mom had read some article about “pyramid power”; the concept being that the light, heat, and vegetable chi, was channeled to produce mega heads.  It just fried them.

Eventually “the Aunts” decided what Dad needed was an authentic “English” garden and started ordering rose bushes from exotic catalogs. Every week UPS would deliver bare root shrubs with fancy names like Amethyst, Just Joey, Mint Julep, and Sterling Silver. Then they decided that he needed a brick pathway and a hideous fountain with the giant artichoke on top. Eventually the gentleman farmer’s field turned into a fragrant field of well over 300 roses, and his garden then became the family focus for garden parties, Scottish dances, weddings and funerals. Dad named it Tiraluin, the Gaelic word for “Beautiful Land”.

As friends and family die a rose is planted and labeled for them. Little brass badges that say, Mary Beatrix Stine, Paul Krol, Frances Baxter. Their ashes have been scattered into the soil under their rose and they continue to live and thrive in the garden they loved.

Tiraluin has continued to morph and change over the years. It’s not as flora-bountiful as it once was, but it still is where we all gather. The ugly fountain is gone and has been replaced with 2 ponds, one with Koi.  A gazebo has appeared and wrought iron swing sits under the 30 year old redwood that my father planted from seed.  And still fighting their way between the roses is the prolific garlic that Dad planted 35 years ago. The true Stinking Rose.