Sharon D’s rose, 13 years later

My original post of “Sharon D’s Rose” was written in June 2011. As with every memory of a friend lost, I shake my head and ask how it could be that so many years have passed.

Bob and Marilyn had come for tea in the garden that weekend. In my ramble around the yard before they arrived, I found a perfect stem of roses to send home with them. The shrub with the totally inadequate and utilitarian name of Winnipeg Parks had just began its blooming.  I planted this rose in memory of Sharon, a mutual friend of Bob’s — and every summer since, when it’s at its peak, it outshines all the other roses in the garden. Bob went straightway to a garden centre to buy the Winnipeg Parks that is blooming now in his garden.

Yesterday, clipping a bouquet to bring into the house, the memory of the spring and summer when Sharon became a gardener, flooded my thoughts.

Looking ahead to solitude in her house —her first two children had flown and the third was poised on the age of the nest to leave for university in the fall— Sharon was gazing out the window one morning, she told when she called. She had decided that she wanted to turn that rectangle of back yard with its lawn and shrubs into a beautiful place. “Help me make a garden, Betty! Any fool can make a garden, can’t she?” I flashed back to a similar conversation just a few months before when Sharon was contemplating walls and called to say, “I’m tired of these walls. Any fool can remove wallpaper, can’t she?” The rental of a steam unit, and three days of labour later, another phone call. Quavery voice. “Betty, you know the layers of wall underneath the paper?” Drywall. Made soft by oh such enthusiastic steaming … But still, I knew my friend was no fool at all, but a bright spark of a poet who would bring such creativity to her gardening I couldn’t wait to watch this garden grow.

First the pruning back of trees, then the digging of the beds (Sharon hired my youngest son to do the labour), the round and round my garden for plants she loved, and the digging and sharing. Then the trips to Greengate and at my suggestion of a bed of roses along the front driveway where the sun shone all day long, we reached the climax of this gardening story. I think there were six assorted roses in the first planting, but the day the Winnipeg Parks opened its first bud, Sharon sent an email saying she was off to Greengate. She was in love with that rose, and she needed at least two more bushes. On a day in late September, I had an email from Sharon saying she’d just finished planting tulips among the rose bushes when the first snowflakes of the season drifted down. She was hooked on gardens. She couldn’t wait to see those tulips pushing through in spring.

In January, Sharon died very suddenly. I think it helped that the world was covered in snow and we didn’t have to think about her garden for several months. That summer, my son tended the yard, pending the emptying and sale of the house. The tulips bloomed but were neatly decapitated by the deer that range nearby. But the roses, the roses were splendid.

Each year, my intent to  drive by Sharon’s garden to see if the Winnipeg Parks is still there lessens. By now, the sadness that kept me away in the first years would surely give way to joy should the roses still be in that perfect spot. But there is a good chance that whoever lives in the house now has different preferences, and they will be gone. I prefer to hold close to the memory of the excitement on my friend’s face that summer she was transformed into a gardener.  This year’s Winnipeg Parks in my own garden will be enough.

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