By Laura Carlo
My father was facing surgery early one April many years ago and was dismayed that just before he had to go into the hospital his order of a dozen-plus heritage rose bushes was delivered early - too early to plant for our Boston gardening zone. Dad had specified that they be delivered two months later ... but things can go wrong with mail order....and now he had to deal with all these roses.
It was important that these rose bushes were saved because roses are very important to us as a family. When we children were born my father picked a rose from his own prize-winners every day and placed it in a vase near our cribs. He kept that up the whole first year of our lives: Red for his first-born, rosy-cheeked me, yellow for my fair little sister and healthy pink for his strapping son---so that the first thing that his "babies would see when they awoke was a rose.”
I returned the favor when Daddy turned 65---66 ruby red long stemmed roses (one to grown on)!
Now what to do with all these bare root rose bushes scrunched up in a soggy set of cardboard buckets left by the delivery man on the cold front stairs? Even though Daddy was a master rose gardener it was a huge task for one person, and given his impending surgery and the time of year there wasn't any time to waste, so I volunteered to help him.
I had never planted a rose bush before, but my father was very patient with me as he showed me step-by-step how to prepare the planting holes, test and amend the soil with organic compost and materials, carefully part the roots and plant and water just so. He showed me how, and just as important, he carefully explained "why" for each step. My usually quiet father was inspired to share with me how much he had loved roses from when he was a little boy. Although he often went hungry in war-torn Italy, and he was frightened of the sounds of war as a youngster, his mother kept pointing out to him that there was still beauty to be found in the world, including the exquisite, perfumed roses of Rome. He never forgot how roses came to symbolize all things hopeful and beautiful.
We worked quietly, then, side by side, and saving those rose bushes took us most of that day. When we were done my father surprised me by hanging a little sign that he had had a local hardware store make that read “The Laura Rose Garden,” something he was intending to do all along. He secured it to one of the larger front rose bushes for all passersby to see.
I have been winning trophies and ribbons and accolades my whole life but no prize ever meant so much to me.
No, not the naming.
The chance to plant roses with my father.
Rest in peace, my Daddy Carlo.
Sign-up for updates from 99.5 WCRB, WGBH promotions, and previews of what's coming up on WGBH TV.