It’s been a tough year. As you dig through the year, it seems like there’s been trouble and heartache in layer after layer. Sometimes the soil has been rocky, sometimes dry and hard. Other times it’s been overly soggy and wet. This is true on the level of politics, personal loss, world events, natural disasters. So, in the midst of these things we must be careful, nevertheless, to be thankful.
We gardeners have reasons to be thankful. Do you? I thought about the things happening around my house. I think the first thing I’d like to mention is that I’ve found a new appreciation for my walled garden that is on the north side of the house. Several months ago, my wife and I made a “policy” decision that we would no longer use our back door as a matter of course. Instead, we go to and fro, exiting our house through the back gate of our walled garden. This policy change has put us in constant contact with the plants in the garden. We have a palatable intimacy with them, now. Each bloom, each fragrance is now appreciated and valued as we go about our daily lives.
My wife and our youngest granddaughter, Olivet, walked out to the car the other day; and, as they did, little Olivet reached down to pet the ‘cat’, the wrought iron cat which is an ornamental fixture in the walled garden. Now as we are coming and going through the garden, Olivet regularly reaches down and says, “Kitty, kitty,” as she passes through.
The walled garden has sported all kinds of white blooming flowers this summer: white cypress vine, white periwinkles, white Plumbago auriculata and, of course, the night-blooming jasmine that ravishes our olfactory senses each time we walk past it through the gate. And now that we regularly go through the garden, my wife is more likely to cook with fresh herbs because she notices the basil, the rosemary, and the Laurus nobilis (bay tree). I’m thankful for the walled garden, now. It is not just something to maintain, making sure it’s pretty, but it has become a living, breathing part of our lives.
At our front door there is a climbing rose winding itself on the wrought iron porch railing. The rose has been blooming the last week or so, and its history has made me smile even in the face of a loss that has been both personal and citywide. The rose blooming on the porch is tied up with memories of Bryan Holt Davis, Jr. That rose was smuggled in to Nacogdoches from England as a result of a holiday taken by the Bill Pattons, Gayle Wyatt and the Davises. The rose found its way here via a cutting taken by Bryan Holt at the Cavendish Hotel in the Village Boslow which is on the Chatsworth Estate of the Duke of Devonshire. Gayle Wyatt tells me that one morning Bryan Holt watched the hotel gardener work among the large, climbing rose which graced one of the walls of the hotel. As the gardener clipped and tied back the rose, Bryan asked if he could have a bit of it to take home with him to Texas. Bryan wrapped the cutting in an English newspaper and brought it home where he rooted it. For years ever since, folks in Nacogdoches were given rooted cuttings of that ‘Cavendish’ rose. This very day quite a few folks here in Nacogdoches have that rose growing and blooming around their homes, a rose that came about via a holiday in England and Bryan Holt’s love of all things English. I’m thankful for that rose; and, as we go in and out of our front door, we think of the Davises, the Pattons, and Gayle enjoying themselves on the estate of the Duke of Devonshire.
Just a note here about the ‘Cavendish’ rose. I will always call it that, but in actuality its name is “New Dawn”. It is a hybrid of Rosa wichuraiana, from China. The rose has glossy green, healthy foliage and is a sport of the rose “Dr. Van Fleet”. New Dawn was introduced into the horticulture trade in the 1930s by the Somerset Rose Company. Here in Nacogdoches it blooms heavily every spring and then off and on into the fall of the year. The rose is known as a rambling rose which means it puts out canes and must be tied up flat against a wall (or through a porch railing) but is worth the trouble. Its semi-doubled flowers are a clear, blush pink and lightly scented. Just so you know, the folks from the SFA gardens came to my house this past year to take cuttings from my ‘Cavendish’ rose and plan to have it for sale at one of the garden sales in the near future. Be sure to look for it. I hope, when they list it for sale, they call it, “New Dawn: alias the Cavendish Rose.”
This holiday season as the year closes, I’m thankful that on the east and north side of my home there is a coming and going among garden plants that enrich our lives with beauty, fragrance, and memories.