Thursday, April 16, 2009

War of the Roses

(Tamora, a David Austin Rose with May Night salvia)

Roses are so beautiful, who doesn't love them? Gardeners devote inordinate amounts of time and money feeding, watering and grooming them. Many people paint and spray their roses with everything from manure tea to napalm trying to combat the 1001 insects and diseases that plague them.

Now the forsythia are blooming. It's time. I suit up in my body armor, grab two pruners and the loppers and go bravely forth to prune the roses. This is my least favorite garden chore because it always involves blood and pain.

This year I escaped with minor wounds. Abe Darby managed to sink three wicked thorns into the top of my head as I bent to reach the base. Note to self: Wear helmet. Even if I somehow escape blood loss while pruning, the roses will eventually win. They leave many vicious thorns behind on top of the soil just waiting for the gardener to pull a weed wearing only light weight summer gloves. Every one of those thorns will eventually find my fingers.

This year in my far northern climate, the rose canes had to be cut all the way back to the soil line. Even my Canadian roses lost most all of their cane to winter damage. They do bounce back amazingly well. By the end of May they will be about two feet tall and blooming. The thing that frustrates me most about growing roses in this hostile climate is that they will never reach any height. Wonderful ramblers and climbers that cover walls and roofs in the south will barely reach eight feet here before another harsh winter sets them back to ground zero.

A note to new gardeners: There are some heirloom roses that don't have thorns. Just wanted to mention that so you wouldn't decide all roses aren't worth the suffering they inflict. These heirlooms don't require toxic weapons to prevent disease and insects either.


My very first bloom of the 2009 season.

Just a common daffodil, nothing unusual. We've all seen a million of them on blogs since February when they began blooming in far southern gardens. This one is special to me because it means spring is finally here in northern Illinois. Before the grass is green, before the leaves cover the bare branches, here is the first spot of color in my garden.

Everyone have a wonderful weekend and enjoy whatever is blooming in your garden.