• T.M. O’Shaughnessy

Stubborn roses


The Canadian Explorer rose Jens Munk would also be a possible choice for a balcony rose arbour.

My mother said I was very, very stubborn. Actually that’s not completely accurate. In fact, she often attached the phrase, “as a mule” to it. But it’s only now as I claim more reflective space in my days by semi-retiring that I see how true her assessment of me could be. Currently it’s the beautiful rosebush sitting on my balcony that illustrates her point most clearly.

Yes, I’ve acquired a rosebush to grow on a 10th floor apartment balcony. After isolating under COVID-19, and watching apocalyptic scenes of pandemic and political unrest on television – not to mention the fact that it snowed a little more than week before the hottest day ever in the history of May – I decided to throw logic to the winds and completely indulge myself with the luxury of a rosebush even though I live in an apartment.

What can go wrong?

And so, a beautiful shrub rose called Les Impatiens now sits on my balcony, poor thing. It’s in a big pot about two feet deep and about a foot and a half across, and has been expertly planted by professionals, which bodes well.

As for its care, I’m ready to feed it more than if it had been planted in a garden bed. I’m also ready for all the other usual rose care things that apply. Like making sure the rose’s root ball is always covered by earth. By making sure there’s good drainage – and yet not forgetting that enough moisture must always be present in the container. Remembering to water into the base rather than watering over the complete plant to avoid dampy, moldy conditions is also on my list. And last but not least, making sure it sits in at least six hours of sun every day.


The rose called Morden always makes a lovely show.

These are the things that I can control. With the coronavirus still upon us, and having to stay close to home for the foreseeable future, my rose is probably at risk of too much care rather than too little. As my almost 16-year old dog will tell you, it’s just best to pretend to be asleep unless you want to be walked all day.

And of course, further care must also be taken to transplant Les Impatiens into a less stubborn gardener’s yard in enough time so that it can settle in before the winter. Planning ahead, its destiny lies in my sister’s garden in August with other orphan perennials from my balcony: a dianthus called Raspberry Swirl, scented like some wild fruity-cinnamon jam, some winter savoury, and various kinds of lavender.

How it will all come out is anyone’s guess. But there are already 21 buds on Les Impatiens who is living up to her name, clearly wanting to just explode into the ‘bright pink, very fragrant, continuous bloom’ promised on her tag.

So I think I have chosen well.

If I’d found a rose called Stubborn Mule, I clearly would’ve bought that one. But since there wasn’t one, Les Impatiens seems like a very good, rather apt, stand-in, doesn’t it?

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