I’ve returned from the blazing heat of Oslo to my breezy Swedish summer island and, with this, to my rose garden. Everywhere I look there is a new petal unfolding with its very own color and aroma. I know that I am not alone in my lusty passion for roses. My mother calls me from Germany and proclaims with exaltation that she has just been out in the rose gardens of Baden-Baden. “Wonderful, wunderbar…” In fact, I don’t think it would be wrong to say that most people find roses irresistible. Isn’t this mysterious? They aren’t chocolate (i.e. not quick energy) and we don’t need them for our survival.
Determined to get to the bottom of our common human fascination with roses, I spend the first few minutes of each summer morning with my nose in a rose. Outside my laundry room I take in the mesmerizing aroma of a pink rose with a French name that I can never quite remember. The precious buds of this rose are the stuff that our perfume bottles are filled with. Is our attraction to roses simply about creating an attraction to each other? Does our fascination with roses just boil down to hormones?
Around the corner, I immerse my senses in the light, soapy aroma of Graham Thomas. Graham is a yellow rose with a voluptuous bloom. It’s brightness reminds me of the sun which we see comparatively little of here in the cold, dark North. Is our fascination for roses a dimension of that feeling that we are witnessing a miracle? Can there really be life of so rich a quality after the barren winter?
For me, roses are a reminder that almost anything is possible if you set your mind to it. A decade ago, I arrived on this sandy, rocky island with a grand vision of a rose garden and no clue as to how to create one. With each plant nursery that I visited, I received the depressing advice of the experts to be realistic and go for the ugly hardy types or no roses at all. Sometimes it can be helpful to be stubborn. Drawing on the invaluable advice of an experienced Danish rose expert, I dropped some slightly rotten herring (strömming or Baltic herring) into the bottom of the deep hole that I dug for each new rose in my garden. Years later I am thankful for being stubborn and for the advice about the diverse uses of rotten herring.
The next time that you see a rose give a thought as to why it fascinates you. Taking a step back from your immediate perceptions, and considering them even for a moment, can expand your ’space’ immeasurably.