mardi 9 juin 2009

The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild

Osteospermum, or Cape Daisies

I needed a hose connector for the hose that cracked in half during the Great January Freeze of 2009, but the store was empty, and I wandered. It's a sort of luxury to be alone with the plants, to stroll among them, read their name tags, lean in to see if they smell. I didn't mean to buy any. A hose connector, insecticide for the grubs (which they haven't had for several trips now), planting soil, and perhaps some Cranesbill geraniums (if they had them... they did not). I arrived at the roses.

For several seasons, I have been wanting to plant rambling roses along the concrete rails of the top terrace to let them cover it and spill down over the low wall and the plants below. It's been a project for when I get to it, but the buy 2, get 1 free rose sale got me first. There were David Austin English roses. I have never seen them at Florosny before, but Victor is gone, and Victor bought the roses in years past.

Victor being gone is not a good thing. Neither is Thierry being gone, along with nearly everyone else, and over half the usual stock. The store is sad. The choices are vastly reduced. If Victor hadn't told me just before Christmas, the last time I saw him there, when Audouin and I bought our Christmas tree, that they had been losing money every year for quite awhile, I would have figured it out this season. They are saving money, and I don't know if they won't do themselves in with what is left for sale. Slim pickings. I confess that I have been going to Truffaut and wandering through their offerings.

There were Katherine Morleys and cottage roses (I wanted some), and the Pegasus, William Morris and The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild I eventually bought, after looking everything over, and deciding that these are rose varieties I wanted anyway. They are not ramblers, but they offer the benefit of full foliage and arching branches, which enable them to fill in as medium bushes and be trained as small climgers. They are also very good repeat bloomers, heavily scented of tea rose. The The Igenious Mr. Fairchild is a peony-like rose. Exquisite. When the peonies have passed, the The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild will fill in to remind us of their beauty.

So, when you buy roses, clematis are required. I should have bought more, but I did buy one -- a "Princess Diana" that scrambles along fences and through climbing roses, summer blooming right along with them. It's deep magenta makes a playmate for the burnt orange of the hemerocallis. I think I will go back for a Jackmanii tomorrow to train along behind the yellow choreopsis, in full bloom now.

The hose connector was for the project of the day: cleaning the pool. They didn't have one I needed in the right size, but they had tons in the wrong size. I asked at the register why there would not be a single one in the smaller size, while there were racks of the larger size.

"Un cambriolage?" she proposed. A burglary? Was she joking?

"Vous plaisantez?" I checked. She nodded no, and smiled understandingly, as though the theft had occured in my garage.

"Mais, ils ont cambriolé le magasin pour prendre des réparateurs de tuyaux? Ils ont pris autre chose?"

"Oui, des tondeuses." Lawnmowers. Lawnmowers and hose connectors for 13 to 15 mm diameter hoses. I get the lawnmowers.

"Ce fut quand?"

"Dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche."

"Ce week-end qui vient de passer?" I asked, surprised. Not that it mattered which Saturday night. She nodded, and smiled again, as though to offer me condolences for the burglary of my favorite garden center. The manager arrived with the register key to do my refund. I had bought a hose connector on Sunday. The only size that remained. Too big. "Ils sont rentrés comment? -- oh! Mais peut-être vous préférez ne rien dire, pas que je vais cambrioler mon magasin préféré, ou n'importe quel magasin ceci dit."

"Il suffit," said the manager, in her whispery voice, "de couper le grillage, casser des vitres... comme dans tous les cambriolages." I felt like I was in a library. Of rare books.

"Ils ont cassé des vitres?" She nodded. "Ben. C'est dégoûtant." It is disgusting. I was sorry. I had to go to Truffaut, and I found what I needed, but the hose thingie still leaks a bit. At least I was able to fill the pool enough to be able to put the chlorine shock tablets in the skimmers and turn them on. It's a lighter shade of toxic green now.

I found the last frog doing laps along the edge of the pool. It's quite a beautiful stroke, actually. The power of those long rear legs and feet.

He usually hides from me, but this time he appeared to wish to get my attention. He came right up to where I was scrubbing below the crumbling crown and didn't dive to the bottom when I spoke to him. I scrubbed a little harder. He didn't move, but a drop of rain fell on me. By the time I had made it halfway around the pool to get the net, it was pouring, and he was back to doing laps. I found shelter under the think needles of a droopy sort of pine, and waited. It was a deluge. The thunder began to crack somewhere over the ridge up behind the house, and the frog swam up and down the pool, the surface of which looked like the stiff peaks of beaten egg whites under the pummeling rain. It slowed a little.

I ventured out with my blue child's net, bought for exactly this purpose in the harbor of Portsall in Brittany back in April. I approached. He watched me. He swam over a little closer. I looked at him. We looked at one another. I lifted the net. He didn't budge. It's usually enough to make him dive to the farthest depths. I moved a little closer. He waited. I moved the net again. He continued to watch me. I was sure he was thinking Hurry, will you? The chlorine is really starting to sting my eyes. I lowered my net, and he practically stepped in.

Until, that is, I started to lift it out of the water. That was enough for him! Out was what he wanted. A trip to the fish-pond-in-a-fountain was not on his program.

He lept. I grabbed. He lept again. I lunged. I tried to close the net around him. He lept again. I lunged, placing my hand over him. He bleated.

(Serious. He sounded just like a very tiny lamb being stabbed with a pointy knife. Or something.)

I closed the net around him and told him to be patient. He'd like where he was going. Really. Serious. I hurried up the 28 steps of the main stair, two strides across the second terrace and up the remaining 5 steps. I let the net into the water. He looked at me.

"What? It's a little cold? Sorry." He hesitated again. "C'mon. You're free. This is it. You'll like it. The others are all here already." I gave the net a little shake, and he pushed off, and directly under the mud.

I hope the others will make him feel welcome.

Or her.

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