Peter Funt: Sometimes, a rose is more than a rose

Published 1:00 am Thursday, May 21, 2020

The rose bush outside our kitchen window is telling a different story this spring.

Severely cut back each winter, it always rebounds as the weather turns warmer. I once read in a gardening book that it’s almost impossible to over-prune roses.

But last week, although the stems had grown tall and the leaves were vibrant, the plant produced just a single flower. I watched as it transitioned from bud to bloom — a soft shade of crimson, not too dark, mixed with a bit of pink from nature’s limitless palette. It was beautiful and mysterious.

Email newsletter signup

The days have been especially pleasant here along California’s Central Coast. With just enough late-winter rain and bright spring sun, gardens are lush.

There are many golf courses nearby and with players sheltering at home the links quickly became wildlife sanctuaries. Families of deer, who usually poke around in the rough during daylight hours, spent March and April bounding across the fairways, not having to worry about golfers or their errant shots.

As much as I like sports, when Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed courses to reopen this month it was bittersweet. I had taken to riding my bike on the empty cart paths and watching how, with each day, the animals and plants seemed more comfortable in surroundings which, after all, are home.

With extra time on my hands this spring I went back to growing vegetables in large containers. I had given it up a few years ago when things at the office were busy. Also, because my wife Amy did the math showing that each tomato I proudly produced was costing about $8 after all the fertilizer, water and various gardening supplies had been tabulated.

But this year is different. I’m not quite so bored that I’m willing to watch grass grow, but I do enjoy spending hours evaluating the progress of a healthy Early Girl plant. My blueberries are small, but sweet. The Meyer lemons were right on time. There was fresh basil for last night’s salad and mint to garnish Amy’s spiced chickpea stew.

Yesterday, a few petals dropped from the lone rose. This morning, what remained of the flower had fallen to the ground.

As I walked from the kitchen for a closer look I was surprised to see that the bush had produced nearly 30 new buds, all forcing their way open at the same time. I don’t know how I missed them. I could swear they weren’t there yesterday, or perhaps they were so tiny that they went unnoticed. The bush is more robust than ever.

What am I to make of that first rose? Was it a scout? A message in increasingly uncertain times?

I don’t care much for omens, unless of course they come along when we really need them. So, I’m taking this as a good one.

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. He can be reached at