It is that time of year. We have cut back all the rose bushes for the winter and covered them with oak leaves to protect them. We covered all the roses except the special one my late mother-in-law planted. That one enjoys cold weather and tolerates snow. Imagine a rose especially designed for thriving in Buffalo winters.
When my husband and I married, I paid little attention to the plant growing by the front porch of the house he had inherited. I concentrated on tending the backyard garden. But that mysterious plant in front caught my attention the chilly November day we brought our newborn daughter home from Children's Hospital.
My parents had bought the baby's homecoming outfit. I felt badly because there was nothing from her late paternal grandparents. I never knew them, but from my husband's recollections, I guessed they would have enjoyed fussing over their new granddaughter.
As I held my sleeping infant, I saw two pink blossoms atop tall stems jutting from the evergreen my husband's mother had planted. I shouted for my husband to stop the car there in the driveway as we marveled over the special gift sent to celebrate our daughter's birth.
Every year since then, our Christmas Rose blooms for daughter number one's November birthday. Its blossoms continue through the early January birthday of daughter number two.
Always the blossoms sport a pink tinge. Sometimes, they include purple, which was daughter number two's favorite color for a time. Other years, more white than pink or purple splashes across the star-like flowers. But never are the blossoms late for the birthdays.
Both of our daughters live far away from Buffalo and aren't here for their celebrations. On those days, I look outside and confirm that the Christmas Rose has not failed. I telephone my daughters and give them my good wishes and tell them how many blossoms their late grandmother has sent. Although my daughters expect there to be flowers, they still giggle during my report.
Throughout our girls' childhood, we looked for those "presents" from the grandmother they never knew. Some years we carefully scraped snow away to find the flowers.
When we prepared to move from the house, my husband dug a huge ball of earth along with the plant we intended to take with us. He placed everything in a basket and planted it, basket and all, in the large hole he dug in our new yard. Then he carefully tamped down the soil. We took more care moving that plant than some of our breakable items.
We have moved it twice, despite a gardener friend warning us that a Christmas Rose does not tolerate being uprooted. Happily we ignored his advice. Each time we moved, we found a somewhat shady spot and each time the plant thrived. Last year, it had more blooms than we ever saw it produce. I stopped counting after the 15th one appeared. Not many Western New Yorkers can brag about having flowers blooming in their yards in December and January.
Buffalo winters may be cold at times, but our Christmas Rose provides us with a warm reminder of family ties and love. The small evergreen is now an important part of our family's history. As it hugs the ground with its green leaves year round, it proves how connected we living things are to one another.
On the gloomiest of winter days, I see bright pink or purple flowers against the snow and I am grateful for such a special gift.
Sandy McPherson Carrubba, of Kenmore, treasures a rose bush she inherited.