This afternoon, I untangled the wreck between Rosa ‘The Fairy’ and R. ‘Carefree Delight’ (a thornier beast never grew), and I was stabbed on my arms, head and backside. Note: Friends keep giving me rose gloves, but I find them clunkier than regular gloves, and they make my arms sweat. Besides, they don’t don’t solve the sticky head or backside problems. I’m thinking full body armor?
While I worked, I pondered how pruning roses is a lot like raising teenagers. I’m on numbers two and three in the children category if you wondered.
First, let’s back up a bit. Like a new parent, you plant your tiny roses in the garden. You give them good things to eat like bone meal, manure and leaf mold. For those first couple of years you prune them lightly and water, waiting for them to grow. With a guiding hand, you protect them from late freezes and other dangers like thrips, Japanese beetles and cane borers.
Then, one day, you go outside with your sharpened pruners full of hope and expectation, and you discover that during winter (or when you turned your back), the roses grew six feet tall and became all prickly, unruly and sullen. Suddenly, they don’t want to go to Tae Kwon Do anymore (even though they are one test from earning their first black belt), or to Boy Scouts (although they are one step from their Eagle). Instead, they want to mingle with friends, listen to music you hate, and think incessantly about girls or boys.
Whoops, I’m talking about the teens, but you can see the similarities.
The roses are now clambering through the other shrubs and are taking over pathways. You gently try to prune away dead wood, and you are stabbed by reflexive thorns (prickles really) which let your hand in, but force you to scratch your way out. You take the canes gently and pull them away (to cause the least bit of damage to you and the rose), but then, the rose slaps you in the face.
It isn’t pretty.
You ask the teens, “Where are you going tonight and with whom?” They spout off a name . . . someone you don’t know.
“Do we know their family,” you ask. With a look of disdain, the teen mumbles something unintelligible. After much discussion, you realize you do know the new friend, and with fingers crossed and silent prayer, you say okay.
Roses are the same way. It’s good to know their background. Does the rose have ‘Carefree Delight’ in her progeny? If so, expect great disease resistance, but also, disturbing growth and wicked thorns. Sometimes, for ‘Carefree Delight’, a complete chop down to three or four canes is necessary. I call this “rose grounding.” It is similar to teen grounding, like when you discover the school has your teen’s phone. Again. Resigned, you have your teen work off the phone’s ransom.
Another useful thing for climbers growing wildly out of control and reaching for the sky (a good analogy for a teen boy) is a bit of guidance with vinyl tie tape or jute twine. It guides the rose toward the arbor or trellis while providing some give and take. Everyone needs their space.
Then, once the pruning, gentle or severe, is over, it’s time to feed and mulch your babies. Come summer (i.e., adulthood), you get to see them bloom, and suddenly, you realize all the pain and struggle was worth it for moments such as these.