Yellow Roses and Other Memories

Just came in from pulling a few weeds in my yard.  It’s been a cool, damp spring here, and my flowers are coming into bloom.   With deadlines pressing, the time would have been better spent at the computer.  But something in me craves that hands-in-the-earth feeling.  Besides,  I’ve come up with a good excuse–it’s genetic.

The once-remote mountain valley where I grew up was settled by Danish immigrants in the late 1800s.   They arrived to sagebrush flats with gravelly gray soil that had to be tilled, fertilized and irrigated before anything would grow.  Winters were long and cold, summers brief and blistering, with never enough rain.  The corn, wheat and root vegetables they planted had to be coaxed out of the ground with backbreaking labor.  Still, women planted flowers.  Precious seeds, starts and bulbs, carried in wagons, were passed from neighbor to neighbor, from mother to daughter.  Before long the little town was in bloom.

My grandmother, whose parents were among those early settlers, had a beautiful yard.   Her flowers were likely descendants of those lovingly guarded little sprigs.  I loved their names—baby’s breath, sweet peas, snowball bushes, bridal wreath, irises and peonies.  Grandma taught me how to make dancing girls out of hollyhock flowers using the petals as skirts.  (We didn’t have hollyhocks at our house because my dad maintained that people planted them to hide the outhouse.)  But my favorite flowers of all were the climbing yellow roses that covered Grandpa’s old garage.  Tough and prickly, with a heavenly fragrance, they grew all over town. 

Years later, after I’d moved to a gentler climate with better soil, I dug up a small shoot from those roses and planted it in my yard.  Accustomed to harsher conditions, the little bush became a wild, thorny monster that couldn’t be cut back fast enough.  I left it behind for the new owners when I moved—next time I drove by they’d taken it out.

My mother was a gardener, too.  Six years ago, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, someone asked her what she planned to do in her remaining weeks.  “I’m going home and plant my flowers,” was her reply.  Those flowers were just coming into bloom when Mom passed away.

Last month I visited my California daughter.  She proudly showed me the space behind her condo that she’d turned into a tiny oasis with bamboo and lavender and hibiscus.  The gardening gene is alive and well. 

So far I have just one granddaughter, the offspring of a son who doesn’t know a dahlia from a dandelion.  She’s only two, but her mother has mentioned that she likes to help plant flowers.  There’s hope.

Are you a gardener?  Do you have a favorite flower, or one that reminds you of something special?  I’d love to hear.

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

40 thoughts on “Yellow Roses and Other Memories”

  1. I too love to dig in the dirt. When spring hits I have to plant something.

    My grandmother also taught my sister and me how to make dancing girls out of hollyhock flowers.

    My favorite flower would be pink roses. But love all flowers.

  2. Ah I love my garden and the various roses. I always grow California poppies (the orange ones) because it reminds me of home.
    Your post reminds me of a televison series I once saw on roses. The presenter was Roger Phillips. He travelled to Angels Camp and its cemetry (we had a cabin around there so I was pleased to see it). But anyway, the pioneers often planted rose bushes in cemetries and you can find old roses from the 19th century there. I could really remember the roses blooming there from when I grew up.

  3. I am definitely a gardener. I have a variety of flowers in my yard- irises, wild white roses that have a sweet scent, red roses, hosta, daylilies tiger lilies, sedum, japonica, vinca (aka periwinkle), forsynthias, phlox, peppermint, quince bush, wild honeysuckle bush, stars of David, and hen and chicks(though right now its more like 2 hens and no chicks. LOL)

    We have a tulip tree in the back yard that was there when my husband’s grandparents lived here along with a peach tree that doesn’t produce good peaches and a bunch of wild vermosa that grow in abundance around these parts.

    In my flower boxes I have coleus, viola, petunias, impatiens, dusty millers, schizanthus(aka poor man’s orchid or the butterfly flower) and orange and purple African daisies. I’ve also started morning glories to run up an old wrought iron corner piece in my rose bed and flower pots of moss rose- one of my favorites that my mom always had in flowerboxes on our front porch when I was little. I’ve also started a variety of sunflowers to put around the garden.

    I have a rose of sharon that’s trying to overcome a transplant from my MIL’s yard and my new lilac bush I got a couple of weeks ago at Lowe’s when they put them on sale- probably because they had already bloomed for this year. Still, if it does good, it will probably be my absolute favorite thing in my yard because lilacs are my favorite flower.

    When I was young, my mom’s lilacs grew on the side of the house, right below my bedroom window, so in the spring, I would lay on my bed next to the window, pen and paper laying in front of me, and enjoy the aroma of lilacs wafting in my window while I daydreamed about what kind of stories I would write someday. So I’m hoping having a lilac in my yard now will provide beautiful flowers, delicate scents and a sense of home and inspiration.

  4. You ladies are early risers–probably outside working in your gardens by now. Taryn, your yard must be incredible. Wish I could see it. And I grew up with California poppies, too, Michelle. My sister and I liked to slip the little green “sleeves” off the new flowers. Sherry, I love it that you share my memory of hollyhock dancers. It’s fun that someone else remembers. Thanks so much for your comments.

  5. I love to garden getting the hands all dirty and it seems like there is no nails to be had. Tried the gloves but I just have to get my hands into the dirt. I planted my vegetable gardens on Monday I have 3 of them they are not real big but a tons of work. And last night after work I planted all the flowers in the yard and had to go and get more soil used it all up and needed more pots too. I don’t think was one Annual that we didn’t buy, I todl hubby we need more perinnals which we have tons of those too like the rose bushes that I trim back all the time and they won’t stop they are a full time job. They are very beautiful when they are blooming but they grow everywhere they are very wild and painful. I love lilies, and I miss our lilac bushes we had to take them out when the drive way came in, so when we are walking I always stop to smell them in other peoples yards. I wished I coud just stay home and plant all year around that would be great.

  6. I’m not a gardener. My husband raises the garden around here and he’s all about FOOD.
    But the house we live in has this beautiful bed of creeping phlox. It’s just perfect right now. We live in a 90-year-old farm house NOT a romantic old rambling home, a very small, sensible one story house. But when those creeping phlox are blooming it really rises to the level of beautiful.

    I think I’ll take a picture of it tonight. It would be good to have when the flowers fade and the weeds start blooming.

  7. My nails are hopeless, too, Brenda. There’s just something about getting fingers in the dirt, isn’t there? And do you find that the thorniest, wildest roses always seem to have the sweetest smell? When I used to cut back my yellow ones, even the wood smelled wonderful.
    Thanks for your comment.

  8. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, adores flowers and has such a gift for making them bloom and grow (uh, that GIFT is probably no more mysterious than plain hard work).

    But she has everything, tulips and daffodils, little blue flowers she calls glory-of-the-snow that often blooms if there’re are even a few warm days in February, clematis and roses and lily of the valley and hydrangeas and iris and sweet rockets and violas and violets and hyacinths and crocus and on and on and on. Plus she plants annuals every year, impatients and petunias, hanging baskets of fuschia and hybiscus and begonias. Something beautiful to pause and admire all the time. It’s beautiful. She lives near me in a 150-year-old farm house. ALSO more wreck than romantic. 🙂 But oh, those flowers.

  9. I am sure your mother sees all the beautiful flowers up there in heaven.
    Yes the roses that are the thorenist do smell the best. And the rose bushes they sale now don’t seem to be like the older ones, we have.
    I am at work today and I think one of the ladies here thought (she must not have washed her hands) but I did and soak them but it take a few days for it all to go away and usually I have to cut all the nails back to clean them.
    I have to tell you I cut all the beautiful big flowers back becasue of snakes I have had my problem last year one chased my back to the house so I got rid of all my big flowers so I can see around them.

  10. A snake chased you? Oh, yikes, Brenda. I’ve never seen a snake in my yard, but I’m plagued with snails. Not scary, just yucky, and they eat the plants.
    And I love old houses, Mary. Wish I could see your mother-in-law’s with all the flowers. And at least you’ll get more writing done if you’re not always wanting to be out in the yard.
    🙂

  11. Zinnias were my Mom’s favorite flower. I can’t see them without remembering her. She always planted zinnias and marigolds in her mostly vegetable garden. At least we didn’t have to can the flowers. :). I plant a few zinnia around one flower bed in her memory. I tried starting them from seed, but the rabbits ate the little shoots, so I have to buy the plants.

    Our house came with roses and I try to keep them up. Also have a couple of flower beds in my yard.
    Some things do real well and others just don’t, but I have fun trying.

  12. My gramma’s backyard was a fairyland of flowers and babytears. Everything she touched grew magically.

    I (try to) raise roses, have 22 bushes, all in bloom right now. Most are icebergs and to me, they are heaven on earth. Here in Southern, California, I can keep them blooming until Christmas.

    My hubby grows tomatoes although two summers ago, a rogue tomato plant started to grow in a totally unexpected area of our backyard. We named her Audrey after Little Shop and she produced tons of tomatoes. Sadly that was her last summer with us.

    Elizabeth, that’s a beautiful story about your mom’s last wishes. Everybody’s posts today have planted such amazing gardens in my thoughts right now. I can see all your flowers!

  13. Hi Elizabeth – I’m so NOT a gardener. I have no desire to get my hands in the soil. But I love my garden, love to see our hibiscus and gardenias bloom. Does that count?

    My hubby — he’s the gardener in the family. Our yard is blooming all over right now. We have roses everywhere, all sorts of lovely flowers and plants that he keeps groomed. It’s his hobby and I’m told the best stress-buster out there. He has to get out in his yard everyday the way I have to get to my computer every day! 🙂

  14. Elizabeth, I see you have a vibrant green thumb! The things I learn about my Filly sisters. 🙂 It’s great that you came from a long line of flower-growers.

    I’ve been doing a little gardening of my own lately. Spring always gets me in the mood to plant flowers. It’s a sure sign the drabness of winter is over when flowers start appearing in nurseries. And there’s nothing that lifts my mood like digging in the dirt. I’ve planted some marigolds and a patch of vinca. The plants in this area have to endure the strong sun and withstand dry temps so we’re very limited on our choices. I absolutely love hibiscus and think it’s the most beautiful flower God created. But they won’t grow here. Not enough moisture and shade.

    Roses are really pretty but I’ve never been a rose-grower unfortunately. Maybe some day I’ll plant some though. You never know.

    Great blog! Love your subject.

  15. Good luck with your new plants, Linda. Having just returned from Northern California where all kinds of gorgeous flowers grow, I can sympathize with living in a place where every little sprig of green is precious. For what it’s worth, I’ve had good luck with ornamental grasses, and there are some beautiful ones on the market. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Elizabeth, your comment about the beautiful plants in California reminded me of a trip my husband and I took to San Diego when we were newly married.

    Then we had a baby and never traveled again but moving on………

    We went to the San Diego zoo and there were all these plants growing EVERYWHERE that I was struggling to keep alive as house plants.

    Swedish Ivy and philadendren…click, click, click it occurred to my very young brain that house plants weren’t created to be house plants. They had to come from somewhere OUTSIDE to begin with.

  17. My favorite flower/plant is the bleeding heart… It reminds me of my grandmother… she had one planted right in the front of her house… I used to always pick one and give it to her as a gift! 😀

  18. I am a gardener who wears gloves. Yes, my summer tan usually ends at the wrists. LOL My husband shares my love for flowers and shrubs, too. It’s taken me four years in this home to get my perennials flourishing. Annuals for me are morning glories that climb on trelisses everywhere.

    Taryn, I would love to see a picture of your tulip tree. We planted one and it’s only two years old – very young, but I have high hopes.

  19. Your plant story is making me smile, Mary. My daughter lives on the coast about 100 miles south of San Francisco. I just walked around gasping at the gorgeous plants–these huge purple spires of …?? Amazing!
    And I have a bleeding heart, too, Colleen. It’s growing on the grave of my sweet little cat who was with me almost 23 years. I like to think her body is making it more beautiful.

  20. Elizabeth, I admire anyone who understands flowers. Getting the soil right, fertilizer, shade plants, full sun plants, spring, summer, fall – yeesh. I can’t keep it all straight.

    But, oh, I do so love flowers and all the color that brightens a yard. Sounds like you have the gift!

  21. I am a gardener. I love all flowers, but the tall bearded iris are my favorite.
    I just returned from town and sat down at the computer and saw a yellow rose on your post—I purchased a Sunsprite yellow rose today.

  22. We have azaleas in the front yard. Here in northern Virignia, they’re everywhere and they come in pinks, purples, reds and whites. I love the yards that mix up the colors.

    It’s a gorgeous time of year, but my heart’s with Michelle Styles and the California poppies. Wild flowers don’t last long, but there’s nothing like an entire hill covered with orange and purple.

  23. No gift, Pam. If I kept track, I could send you a very long list of the plants that have died under my care. Basically, I stick the plant in the ground and hope it survives–with luck, the tough ones do.
    🙂
    And I love bearded irises, too, Estella. Have some gold colored ones growing outside. Irises will grow anywhere and are almost kill-proof, that’s another reason I like them.
    Your yellow rose must be beautiful.

  24. Have tried to grow azaleas here in Utah, Vicki. They didn’t make it, too dry for them I think, or maybe the soil isn’t acidic enough.
    Like you, I love the wild flowers. They may not last long but when they bloom they’re just spectacular.

  25. I have four rosebushes still growing in the yard
    of all the bushes we have planted over 39 years.
    Somehow they have survived despite my gross neglect of them! I have three more bushes that
    we will plant this weekend. (poor things!) I say that because I know that I am the possessor of the two blackest thumbs in all creation!!

    Pat Cochran

  26. I just happened across your site. I’m now bookmarking it. Love the site. I love moss roses, prairie roses, and any type of rose. Flowers are beautiful things.

  27. Good luck with your new bushes Pat. As I said earlier, I’ve killed more plants than I want to remember. The ones I have left are survivors. I’ve learned to buy flowers that I see doing well in my neighborhood. At least I know they have a chance.

    And welcome to Petticoats and Pistols, Abi. We have a grand old time here and we’re always happy to welcome new friends.

  28. I am a gardener! And my favorite flowers are spring wildflowers. A great way to enjoy the warming spring temperatures is to take a hike outside to find these flowers!

  29. Great idea, Kathleen. You can hike and enjoy flowers you don’t have to plant or weed. We get beautiful flowers in the high mountains, but they don’t bloom until mid to late summer when the snow’s gone.
    Enjoy your hiking.

  30. A neighbor of mine showed me how to take care of my flower bed in the front yard a few years ago and every since, I’ve enjoyed pulling the weeds and mulching and planting. I haven’t done much this year though. For some reason, I started getting really bad allergies this year and even inside of been sneezing. Maybe I’m allergic to the hubby and the kid. Lol. My favorite flowers are coleus and petunias. They seem to be what really grows best in my flower bed. I just love the bright yellow and red coleus. There are different varieties.

  31. Well, you might have to enter the guest password. I clicked on it and still took me to it, but didn’t log me in. You can click on the pictures to bring them up to a larger view.

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