My husband was a gardener. When I say gardener I mean ‘A Gardener’. He did the thing properly. Planned it all, planted seeds and nurtured cuttings. None of your instant fixes from one of those Garden Centres you see sprouting up all over the place these days. Roses was his thing. And mine too. By the time he’d finished we had 120 different sorts of roses in the garden. There was Compassion, Swan Lake, Constance Spry, Golden Showers, oh you name it he’d planted it. Come the summer there was this mass of gorgeous colour. Funny how nature’s colours never clash. I loved them all – except for one: The Blue Moon.
They said it was a triumph. Of course it was some kind of hybrid - Man messing around with Mother Nature. Not nice at all. At least I didn’t think so. And now, would you believe it, all these years later, the Japanese are claiming they’ve invented it!
I read it about it in the local paper not long ago. Honestly! I wrote a letter to The Gazette putting them right straightaway. “Dear Sir, with regard to the recent article in your newspaper etc etc….I beg to inform you that ….” well I wanted to say the Japanese are liars, but one has to be so careful who you accuse these days. “…the Japanese” I wrote, “did NOT invent the blue rose. My husband grew one – in our garden in 1969. For your information it is called a Blue Moon. Yours faithfully Mrs I Collins”
What I didn’t say was that it gave me the creeps. Imagine having a green dog, or a pink cat. How silly would that look? There were all these lovely colours in the garden, pinks, and reds and creamy peach and all the yellows under the sun - not to mention the whites, and in the middle of them all was this - this “thing”, looking for all the world like a black sheep. Still makes me shudder to think of it. “Please dig it up” I begged my husband. But he just gave me one of his looks – as if I’d said something so ridiculous it wasn’t worth an answer.
I got to the point when I couldn’t bring myself to sit in the conservatory in my favourite spot facing the garden. I had to shift my chair round to the left which meant all I could see was the neighbour’s meagre affair - a bald lawn with a few beds of wallflowers and pansies, and a couple of unpruned rose bushes. Not a sight to relax to with your afternoon cuppa. But at least I couldn’t see the blue rose. It was no good, though. I knew it was there. Waiting for me to look at it. Sometimes I’d swear it moved to get my attention, and I’d turn my head as fast as I could, hoping to catch it out, but it was always back in place, sticking out like a bruised fist in the middle of all the real roses. Smug as you like.
It wasn’t a natural blue – not like the sky, or the colour of a cornflower. No, it was neither one thing nor the other. It was like something that had been half dipped in a pot of blue ink - somewhere between a sickly mauve and a faded indigo. It looked like a plastic flower. No smell. No soul. Nothing.
“If you keep that thing,” I said to my husband, “I’ll leave you.” But he just adjusted his glasses, and chuckled. “Lighten up Irene” he said, knowing I couldn’t. “It’s just a flower.” I exploded. “Just a flower? It’s a monstrosity. It’s like, like something out of science fiction.” He just stared at me. “Any minute now it’s going to take over the garden. You mark my words. It’s just biding its time. One day we’ll wake up and there it’ll be looking in at us through our bedroom window.”
At night I’d dream about the rose, only it wasn’t one bush anymore, but thousands, and they’d be marching towards me, their blue heads jutting out from their stems, with mean little eyes like specks of granite, and they’d be making a gurgling noise - like they were laughing at me.
One day I woke up and said to myself, “This can’t go on. Irene my girl, you’ve got to take action.” I’d lost my appetite, my husband was going out to escape from my moans, and I’d taken to sleeping with the bedside light on. I heard him coming up the stairs with my morning cup of tea, and when he came in, on the tray was one of our best china cups and saucers, a boiled egg with soldiers - and, to my horror, a little vase with – with - the head of a blue rose in it. Before I’d a chance to open my mouth he’d laid the tray on the bedside cabinet and sat on the bed. He took my hand and said. “I’ve brought you the last one. The others are all cut up. It’s done with and you can be your old self again, but just take a look at it will you? It’s just a harmless little flower, and I was only experimenting along with all the others, and I’ve thought a lot about it and I don’t want to lose you, so….here you are.” And he took the rose out of the vase and tore off the petals, scattering them one by one onto the blue satin counterpane. “Now eat your breakfast, and after we’ll go out to the Carpet Gardens. Today’s the day they’re giving away the plants, and one thing I can tell you, there won’t be a blue rose in sight.”