10/16/05 – ENCINO, CA
I think somebody’s grandmother is buried under the roses in the courtyard of my apartment building. No, seriously. There has to be something in the soil or the atmosphere that those roses love, because they bloom longer and bigger than any rose bushes I’ve ever seen. My late godmother, who had one of the greenest thumbs I’ve known, used to tend roses in her very sunny garden every year. And every year, depending on the variety of the bush, some would bloom in April, and when they closed up shop at the end of the summer, others would pick up the slack from October to December. But no one of her rose bushes bloomed the entire time.
The roses in the courtyard start blooming in early April, and don’t quit until sometime around early to mid-December. The gardeners who tend them are instructed by the apartment manager to cut them back to the stalk every year in January. After a couple of months, there they are, grown back to around four feet tall and blooming again. I am not the person best suited to explain this phenomenon. I have mentioned before that I am a “herbicidal maniac.” When my godmother passed away in 1999, I was given the heartiest of her plants, the nearly indestructible pothos she’d tended for years (my reputation for horticultural devastation is renowned among family members – and yet, they love me anyway, which is sweet of them). It’s a well-known fact that to kill a pothos takes the coordinated effort of both a gasoline flame-thrower and the gravest gypsy curse. Linny’s pothos is dead now.
It was an accident. I swear.
So, why the roses bloom all year round is a mystery, especially to me. There is a rumor -- having nothing to do with the roses per se, but inspired by other weird, inexplicable phenomena -- that the building is haunted. This appeals to my twisted imagination, but I have little faith in its voracity as an explanation for the blooming foliage.
If I had to speculate, I’d say the prime reason for the roses’ constant state of blossom has to do with the layout of the building itself. The white stucco walls of the apartment reflect light from all angles, during most times of the daylight, most times of the year. Even on an overcast day, diffused light bounces off the walls and comes at objects in the courtyard from all angles. I know this because it’s a terrific place to take pictures, if you’re looking for good quality diffused lighting. What takes a fashion photographer’s camera assistants an hour to pull off with bounce cards and reflectors occurs naturally in our courtyard. I wonder if being bombarded with light all day long, from all directions, doesn’t confuse those poor little roses something awful. Maybe they can’t tell the difference between April and October because the light is little different between those months here. Roses love light, and they get it in spades in this place. And they love water, which they also get in abundance, as the leaky hose hooks up to the spigot at the corner of the rose bed when the manager waters the plants on her patio.
So maybe that’s enough to keep them happy to bloom from spring through winter every year. Then again, there’s still my “buried granny” theory. Which, when you think about it, dovetails nicely into the “haunted apartment” theory. Which, when you think about it some more, sounds like the beginning of an interesting short story. Hmmm….