An insidious rumor is going round that growing roses is not a macho thing to do. Well, I’m a guy, and I grow roses, and I’m here to knock that rumor on its ass.
True it is that gardening books are not written in a style that — how shall I say this? — well, Raymond Chandler wouldn’t’a wrote ‘em like that.
Perhaps I should call him Ray. Or Ray-Ray.
Look, guys, don’t be ashamed of raising roses, because roses are some tough little bastards, and if you don’t believe me, try pruning them, or even dead-heading the little sons of bitches without thick tough gloves on. I did once, and I got the scars to prove it. All over both hands and arms and all my legs.
I remember the day I arrived in California after driving cross-country to evict some deadbeat tenants who’d abused my roses with malice prepense, not to mention the peach tree. They must of chewed off a branch with their teeth, I swear to god.
So I pull my pickup next to a well-established, 12-year-old Queen Elizabeth — a noble, pink grandiflora — and that little mofo tore a hole in the side of a steel-belted radial you coulda drove a Tonka Truck through.
I ain’t lying.
Cost me $111 to replace that f.ing radial, and that was only cause I had a coupon, and Farouk owed me one, because of the time I … never mind about Farouk.
Now, listen to me and listen good: I’d drove that tire through a hailstorm outside of Amarillo that cracked the windshield twice; I’d drove them tires round a jackknifed Budweiser truck outside Tucumcari, with broken glass all over Route 40, not to mention the beer; and I may wish to die — and I don’t — if I didn’t run over a late deer outside Flagstaff. And nothing. Not a scratch or a bump or a leak. Then I pull up next to my own rose bush, a grandiflora for fucksake, and that goddam radial was sleeping with the fishes.
So don’t tell me that roses ain’t tough. Sell that shit up the street. Sell it to the Marines, but don’t try to sell it to me.
OK, amigos, so I imagine your first question will be: Where should I buy my rose bushes, Bob?
Well, don’t buy them at the f.ing Wal-Mart, I can tell you that. They’ll sell you some stunted pieces of shit covered with wax for $6.79. Them poor li’l thangs will never grow to fruition. Might be the wax, might be pure ignorance, might be Wal-Mart. Might be cause you so damn cheap.
But trust me on this: You might as well kiss them 7 George Washingtons good-bye, smack dab on his tighty whitey old lips, cause you ain’t never gonna see no hearty beautiful blooms offa no $6.79 rose bush: Grandiflora, floribunda, climbers, tea roses, whatever.
Guys, you get what you pay for. In roses as in life.
You want you some good roses, roses y’all can be proud of, roses you can cut off one or two and stick ‘em in water in a jar at the breakfast table, even if they ain’t no one eating breakfast there but you and your dog, and never will again — well, I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but you will have to pay $30 and more for a rose bush like that.
I know, I know. Thirty dollars? Or more?
But think of all the joys and pleasures you will get from them roses, guys. Watering them. Feeding them. Dead-heading the little bastards. Siccing a mesh bag full of ladybugs on the goddam aphids that are eating the leaves. Presenting a rose to your lady friend.
And I tell you something else. You think roses are tough? Well, roses are. But ladybugs, those are some really tough sons of bitches. Hell, they eat aphids. For a living.
(Courthouse News columnist Robert Kahn is being kept under close observation.)