The Gardener

I grew roses many years ago... When I moved into my first house, I inherited a yard trimmed with about thirty rose bushes; by the time I moved out, there were seventy bushes growing in the landscape in front of the house.

I knew nothing about rose care and culture before I took over this garden; the only roses I'd ever dealt with were the ones from my parents house that had nasty thorns and only bloomed occasionally. ...and the ones from the florist that were pleasant enough to look at, but didn't really smell like the ones I remembered.

I took it upon myself to learn their culture; I read a few books and visited a few places that had active gardens, some new and some quite old. ...and learned that for all the various teachings, the core information was always the same. So I learned about how to care for them and how to encourage their growth. ...and the rewards were enormous: I'd feed them and water them; and, in return, they'd produce beautiful fragrant blooms for the enjoyment of all who cared to see and smell.

Maintenance was an ongoing project; in addition to regular watering and feeding, the spent blooms needed to be removed: left to themselves, the plants would stop blooming or produce small blooms on weak stalks. Trimming the flower stalk back to a outward-facing growth eye by a five-leaflet leaf ensured a strong stalk with a large bloom. With that many plants, I would be out nearly every day tending to the garden. Regular weekly maintenance was a must, and that reinforcement extended their blooming season until the fall weather forced them dormant.

Maintenance in the spring determined how a plant's future would unfold. Pruning back to three or four strong stalks and eliminating everything else would guide the plant to a strong growth pattern. This was also the time to cut out the dead wood and the galls that could injure or kill the plant. I rarely gave up on a plant: roses are hardy in this climate; I could plan cuts and pruning over several years. ...and usually bring plants back from terrible conditions.

I couldn't protect the plants from concerted attacks by those bent on destroying them, but as long as there was life, there was hope... Fencing them off or hiding them behind a wall was not an option; for then, their beauty would not be able to shine to the world. ...and what would be the point then?

Not all cared to see and smell; some just passed by blindly. ...or just saw 'pretty flowers'. ...or moved to the other side of the sidewalk, lest they be hooked by a thorn. Others stopped to view the varieties and smell the various aromas wafting through the garden. ...and moved on with a pleasant memory until the world intruded once again. One or two even planted a bush or two of their own to care for...

01/02/2002 * || send comment