My mother died on May 21, 2011. So imagine my real surprise when I walked into the construction site on May 22, 2012, and saw a box on the counter from David Austin Roses addressed to my mother. It was eerie. I looked at the ship date and indeed it was this year and not some box that had been unearthed in the garage. I opened the packing slip, and sure enough it had been shipped a year to the day of her death. Inside the box were two Prospero roses.
Okay, they were roses, but they weren’t much to look at— just roots below and sticks above. Apparently, these are called bare-root roses. I read the enclosed instructions and then contacted my mother’s longtime garden helper, Cindy Parsons. I told her about the surprise package, and she was as taken aback as I was. We decided that we needed to get these in the ground ASAP! I said, ” I think she is sending us a message, and one rose is for you and the other is for me.” We, perhaps irrationally, agreed that we needed to tend these roses, as Mum is clearly going to be watching their progress! It was perhaps the most significant plant either of us ever put in the ground.
Here is what they should look like when they take hold. They are breathtaking and will forever be the most special roses in the garden.
I wanted to find out the provenance of the word, so I Googled Prospero. I learned that in Spanish it means “prosperity and success,” in Italian it means “flourishing, thriving,” and in Latin it translates to “I further or cause to succeed.” Reading and reflecting on those definitions, I have come to believe that these roses (regardless of how they got here!) are a sign of Mum’s wishing me success in her garden, in her house, and in my life, and that she is decidedly taking this journey with me. And that these plants will become a touchstone for that belief. I will leave you with the other interesting tidbit the Google search produced—Prospero is a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and below is his very famous soliloquy, which I found uncannily appropriate to this whole episode.
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.