November Roses

This Friday, I drove to the Arnold Arboretum to see their roses. As I travel, I vividly imagine the encounter: the smell of the ‘Ausblush’ rose, the neon pink of the ‘Chuckles’ rose, the delicate yellow petals of the ‘Julia Child’ rose. I have followed these flower friends since their first bloom in June. (See their first blooms here.)

At the gateway, dawn redwoods greet us with rust-colored needles that drop from their branches like tinsel. Just two weeks ago, their soft needles still dazzled my eyes with green. Now, on this wintry day, even the redwoods know the time has come for change.

Most of the deciduous trees have already lost their leaves.
Beautiful autumn has passed away. Austere autumn has moved in.

Focused, we power straight to the rose garden. Upon arrival, I see that every. single. rose bush had been clipped. Every last bud and blossom is gone, except for a few fading blooms on smaller bushes. A sad dullness washes over me. I didn’t get to say goodbye to the ‘Rainbow Knock-Out’ roses; I didn’t get to smell one last intoxicating whiff of the ‘Ausblush’ rose; I didn’t get to say “see you next year” to the crimson rambler; I didn’t get to drink in the cheerfulness of ‘Chuckles’ one more time.

Surprised, my friend finds a local garden worker and asks her about the roses. She explains that the garden workers had winterized the roses by trimming all of them back to mid-thigh level to keep them from breaking during the winter. They also had added mulch at their bases to insulate the rose for the cold ahead.

The roses had been put to bed.

As had much of the arboretum. Long seed pods hang on branches once lush with catalpa leaves. Golden larches stand empty of their sunshine needles. Horse chestnuts have already set out their buds for next year. The bonsai trees have been brought in, and locked away, until next April.

Only the balding cypresses flame with color. Crayon red meets rust as their needles prepare to drop. One balding cypress looks ready for Christmas with its red and green. This baby conifer stands at the height of a Christmas tree. Its top needles remain light green; slowly, highlights of red break into its canopy until the whole bottom becomes red. A perfect Christmas tree.

The corks move their trunks in back bends and dance poses; they stand as sculpted statues when we walk by. Completely leafless.

The trees press upon me the urgency of the hour:
No more hanging on! No more clinging!
Release what is yours to release!

Ack. I am not ready for this.

Luckily, in the maple section, one tree remains to show me it’s tie-dyed autumn glory. Resplendent red, orange, and yellow swirl through its foliage. The colors mix together on each leaf like splattered paint.

My heart warms.

Thank you, I say to the leaf, for hanging on long enough for me to see.

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