A rose for the thinking man

{all the pictures are from our garden this week}

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When I read Charli Mills latest prompt it brought back a few memories and a learning experience. This is her prompt.

June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose. It can be straight-forward, romantic, funny. What is your rose today and what is its story? Who craves the rose or shrinks away? Why? Let the prompt fully bloom in your imagination.

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The context of the prompt is sombre but with hope intertwined. Sort of like a rose, of course and I hope my flippant memory doesn’t detract from Charli’s lovely heartfelt prose.

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When I started gardening, by which I mean when I had my own garden – a rubble strewn plot at the back of a derelict house the Textiliste and I bought in 1985 that measured 20 foot by 100 foot with an enormous overflowing tree two thirds of the way along – I knew this was the time to become the gardener. I had had the encouragement of both parents and I knew the Textiliste was keen. I was going to enjoying creating beauty out of dross, nurturing something that would outlast me. Sure there would be hard work before we progressed very far – the same could be said of the house – but it would be worthwhile.

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Fundamentally like most old London gardens the soil was fabulous. Years of tipping the waste food and peelings and the clinker from countless fires out the back had made it friable and fertile. But waste comes in many guises and the fine tilth was intermingled with stones and bricks and cans and oh cripes bloody near everything that could be broken over the last 100 years and tossed out the backdoor.

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Scroll on two years and we had sifted the soil, built new fences, had someone create some retaining walls and a patio. I levelled the earth, set some stepping stones, used some Edwardian defining stones to delineate flower beds and seeded a lawn. Now for the planting. I’d talked to my mother, I’d watched Gardener’s World and even tried to understand Gardener’s Questin Time on Sunday afternoon though it was the horticultural equivalent of quantum physics to me. In one ear and out the  other.

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I tried, really I did. We went to the Chelsea Flower show. I nodded a lot and tried to sound sage and engaged. But it (that’s the brutal truth) came to me one Friday when we drove to my parents’ house in the New Forest. Both parents knew we had arrived and were at the door when we climbed out. It was a balmy June and my mother gave me a perfunctory hug, told my dad to ‘fix us a glass’ and said to the Textiliste, ‘Come on, I’ve something for you.’ She took her round the side of the house.

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The ‘something’ was in pots. When dad and I brought out the drinks they were deep in discussion about planting depths, watering and pruning stratagems. Dad shrugged; he’d seen it coming for a while. ‘Don’t worry, boy,’ he called me boy until I was about forty five, ‘you just have to accept it.’

‘Accept what?’

‘You’ll always be just a navvy, just carry the spade and be happy.’

He was right of course. I was the hewer of wood and the carrier of water. The under gardener. The lumpen proletariat.

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Over the years I’ve pretended otherwise, pointed out this pittosporum which turns out to be a cotoneaster; confused viburnum with vinca, spirea with pieris (or was it pieris with spirea?) I know all sorts of names and I randomly apply them. Sounds good unless you actually know your onions from your alliums. Part of my legal training, this ability to bullshit.

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And so it is with roses. I know there are standards and hybrid teas and climbers. I know they have names like cherry delight and ruby gobshite but when it comes to it it’s that one with monster prickles, or the red one that smells like a squashed haribo.

They’re beautiful, dangerous if not treated with respect, have a delightful scent most of the time and leave me bewildered but still I’m besotted. Much like the Textiliste.

Here’s my flash. Mary is saying good bye to her parents’ house…

Rose Tainted

‘Can you drive, Paul? My stomach is getting in the way.’

‘Not long now, Mary.’

‘Not soon enough. My ribs feel tenderised.’

Paul held the car door. ‘Sure you’re ok with this?’

‘I want to see the family home one last time before it’s sold.’


‘Well, lookee there. The rambler’s in flower.’

‘Dad loved this; an old English rose he called it. Its scent is… OW.’

‘Those thorns are vicious. Mary, you ok?’

‘Hmm. It’s gone right into the knuckle. Damn. It’s swelling already.’


‘Paul, I’m feeling odd. Can you get me some water? I…’

Mary? MARY!’

If you need to catch up on the story so far, click here

And if you want a little more of the garden ere are a couple of short videos, one with a short commentary

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to A rose for the thinking man

  1. Sacha Black says:

    I have a florist for an aunt and a very green mother and had a green fingered grandmother. I never stood a chance.

    Literally love that your dad called u boy till you were 45!

    Also HOW DARE YOU LEAVE SUCH A CLIFF HANGER! Outrageous. It best be labour and nothing awful – poor Mary 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Labour isn’t awful? Really? It was dreadful from my side so god knows what it was like actually going through it. As to what happens, maybe I should kill her off… Tee hee!!! PWAHAHAH


  2. You have done well with your small plot. I am definitely the under gardener too

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel M says:

    Your garden looks lovely! You must be doing something right. Knowing the names of the plants is not a requirement for gardening, as far as I’m concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Trial and error; I’m on trial until the next major error… thanks Rachel – we do love it even if, for me it is a constant surprise anything survives my misguided enthusiasms


  4. julitownsend says:

    Roses are so rewarding. Yours are beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    Love the garden it looks huge?! Sounds like you learned your gardening the same way we did, same as everything, the school of hard knocks!
    As for Mary will she wake up on time to have the baby!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, what a big garden you have there Geoff. Does Monty Don live next door? How on earth can you manage a garden like that, work a five day week, cook, do the housework, blog and write? I’m guessing you are super human?

    Small puppies wrapped in babies? Now there’s a thought.

    Shame this challenge was 99 words or less, otherwise my short story “The Rose Wish” would have fitted in quite well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What beautiful roses,they are my favourite flower, especially the scented ones (not the squashed Haribo one though)! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Geoff your garden is just lovely. For the first time since leaving my garden you have made me wish I had one again. Second thoughts I will just watch your videos every so often. Much less work. My husband has a similar naming technique to you however his names sound like gobbledy gook where yours (ruby gobshite) sound almost plausible but at least make me smile.
    Your flash has left us teetering on the edge — is it the baby or is it not. I know — we just have to tune in same time next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Norah says:

    What a gorgeous garden! Thank you for sharing the photos and videos and tales of your gardening prowess. Sounds like the green thumb skipped a generation in your family as it did in mine! But then who has created this beautiful spot that looks so tranquil, a haven for a writer. I am impressed by the size of the garden. It’s almost a park!
    Poor Mary. I do hope it’s labour. Please don’t kill her off. We care too much about what happens to her!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I daren’t kill her, Norah. I would create an international incident. And the garden is a delight and our delight. Not sure about the park… Well maybe, we certainly love it and enjoying it with friends and family.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. desleyjane says:

    What a lovely story! Well two lovely stories actually. I love your “growing up gardening” nostalgia. A fine trip down memory lane for you. I will thank Norah for sending me over. Now, what’s happening with Mary?!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Annecdotist says:

    Looking lovely in the garden, Geoff. We don’t really do roses – as you can probably tell from my blog – too complicated, veg are far easier, but have got a clutch of pink poppies to match yours.
    Poor Mary – you’d better get her to the hospital in time!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    I can smell the sweetness and peacefulness from here. Thank you for such a tranquil posting, but an anxious flash. Of dear Mary, be okay!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Among the Roses « Carrot Ranch Communications


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