Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And what about rose pruning?

Although the climbing rose "New Dawn" finished blooming last month--except for the on-going dribble of blossoms that earns this variety its "repeat bloomer" status--I pruned the faded flowers and swelling hips only last weekend.

When my mother was alive, she willingly undertook my rose pruning during her summer visit. An expert rosarian, her own bed of hybrid teas ran in a lazy curve along the back fence of her Maryland yard; ramblers were trellised up the sides of the house. In the summer heat, the scent of cut roses filled her house. Although restrained in her own personal habits, my mother relished fearlessly colorful varieties like "Tropicana," "Blaze," and "Mr. Lincoln."

My mother's cold-blooded conviction with the pruning shears was breath-taking. She ruthlessly pruned out old canes and weak laterals, commenting brusquely, "that will never amount to anything": all canes were cut at the correct angle one quarter inch above an outward-facing group of five or more leaves and new growth was aligned on the trellis.

During the year before my mother's death, her rose garden was untended. Black spot caused leaves to discolor and drop. Canes sprang up with unruly energy. Blossoms withered, and their petals scattered to the ground. Why, I wondered, did she choose to devote her energies to imperious plants so ill-suited to the Maryland heat and humidity? I could well have asked, why garden?

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