Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trimming the Roses

This is the time of year when green-thumbs abandon the indoors to play amongst their gardens.  Shears are sharpened, pruning devices are dug from their hiding places in garages and sheds, trowels, hoes, and shovels are resurrected, and the garden gloves find their comfortable resting places disturbed.  Gardening plans are formed and put into action and the eager gardener rediscovers the pleasure found in the sun’s warmth.

The first step in preparing the garden for the spring is to trim back the plants that survived the previous winter frosts and removing those that did not.  Only after we have taken care of what is already there can we see to bringing in new life.

Most garden enthusiasts suggest Valentines day as the date to begin pruning.  After the 14th, at least in southeast Texas, most of the freezing temperatures have left us behind, leaving only warm weather ahead.  I make sure to never even consider touching my roses until after Valentines day, otherwise, just like this year, our weather may choose to unleash frigid weather one or two last times.  Exposing freshly cut branches and vines to sub-freezing temperatures for extended periods is dangerous to the plants, preventing them from going through the proper growing season.
When attending to your roses, there are three stages of pruning.  Following these guidelines will ensure a beautiful plant for the year, allowing the production of healthy new growth and vibrant roses.  Leaving something out can be the difference between winning yard of the year and a letter from the home owner’s association.

First, find the obviously dead wood.  On a rose, you have to be careful.  Sometimes old wood will appear dead, having the brownish tint we associate with dead plants.  This is not always dead, though.  Dead wood in roses is dried out, looking more like a husk.  Remove all the dead wood, snipping as close to the transition between living and dead tissue to ensure a healthy cut.  This will create two results.  First, it clears space for the new growth, making sure enough light and air will get to the plant.  Second, it helps the plant direct it’s energy - you never want the plant to try to support dead or sick vines; you would rather it grow new, healthy shoots.
The second step is to open the center of the bush.  Find those branches that are growing inwards, preventing air and light from getting to the middle, and trim them off close to their source.  This will also shape the bush, helping it to flourish upwards and out, preventing a closed, tangled mass.  You may feel weird taking off healthy branches, but this step is just as important as the first.  Leaving the middle tangled and inhibited can be deadly for your roses.
Finally, find areas of the plant where it has grown against each itself or it’s neighbors.  These friction points will not allow the rose bush to grow, instead it will push and fight against itself.  Opening up areas of constriction will prevent unnecessary friction from occurring, allowing the plant to grow to it’s potential.
Once you complete these steps, you have pretty much prepared your rose bush for a good growing season.  Congratulations!
The last few afternoons I have been working on accomplishing the same tasks with my roses in the front.  These roses have been planted as the centerpiece of our front garden since we moved in, and they have certainly lived up to the bill, frequently producing numerous beautiful flowers over the years.  Samantha and I have certainly enjoyed their beauty, and I find it amazingly relaxing to maintain them.
While working over the last few days, I reflected on my efforts.  I try to see analogies in every action I take, to find ways that my physical efforts are reflected in my spiritual journey.  I discovered that the process I go through to trim my roses in late winter is perfect for addressing my own life.  Is there a better time than now to prepare for new growth?
I started looking in my own life for dead wood.  I searched for anything that I should have left behind, but unknowingly drag along behind me.  Struggling to heft this unrealized baggage leaves me exposed to weakness.  I am not able to grow as I should when hindered with the unnecessary.
Opening myself up is important, as well.  I am looking into areas where I am closed off to people, ideas, experiences, and anything else that might grow me.  By allowing myself to open up to new experiences, or find new and exciting aspects of my current life, I begin to shape my future. 
Looking at my life, I am searching for areas where I have created friction.  Do I subscribe to certain ideas or beliefs that don’t necessarily work together?  I need to rectify these, either finding common ground where they can work together, or ridding myself of those that are no longer correct.  Besides internal sources, I work to reduce friction with my environment, with co-workers, associates, friends, and loved ones.  Allowing friction to continue to exist, I encourage disease.  Freeing myself from it moves me forward.
I wish I could say that these three steps are as easy as my three afternoons in the garden have been, but I know they are not.  Each is a long process, one in which I participate every day.  As long as I keep them in mind and am constantly vigilant about them, I will grow, my own life being as productive and beautiful as the roses in my garden.


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