Friday, August 28, 2009

Uprooting the Wild Rose Bush

I know that I usually write about politics, but I thought that this week I'd switch gears and write a little something about gardening. I used to have a little garden of my own that I'd take care of, but as life would have it I have lost my home and now live in an apartment, so I have a garden no longer. My mother, on the other hand, still lives on an acre of wooded land out in the country and she has several large and small gardens on her property. A couple times a month I try to get out there and help her maintain her gardens. It is more work than hobby anymore, but there is still a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from working with the land and growing pretty things.

I've worked with both flower and vegetable gardens. I really like vegetable gardens. There's nothing more satisfying than harvesting a crop at the end of the year and munching on fresh veggies. Nothing tastes better than your own vegetables fresh from the garden, grown from nature's grand design with a little help from your own sweat and toil. It is your personal work, your own time taken to lovingly care for and tend the plants, going into your tummy. Unfortunately I haven't tasted such a treat for a long, long time, but taking care of a flower garden has its own rewards. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to step out into your yard and mark the passage of time by taking note of the different colors of the blooms as they open and to know that happens by your design. I had been, until the recent economic downturn and the loss of my property, working with my own flower gardens, although maybe not as much or as thoroughly as I would have liked. Over the last couple of years I have helped my mother tend her gardens.

Recently my mother decided she wanted to work on the front of her yard. This area of her property had been a little bit neglected as we had concentrated on other areas. She had planted a few things there, but nature had decided to give her a challenge. Many weeds and unwanted vegetation had taken root in the rocky soil near the road, blocking from view most of the domesticated plants that were growing there. Among these was a giant white wild rose bush that was now dominating the vista.

For those that may not know, a white wild rose bush is not like a regular rose bush one might find in a domestic flower garden. For one thing, the flowers are not as nice or as blossomy as the full blooms of the domestic plant. They are far smaller and more plain. The leaves are also not as big nor as glossy as some of the more popular varieties developed for gardens. The wild rose bush is more vine like than many domestic varieties. The thorns, however, are just as sharp and dangerous. In short, the white wild rose bush is considered more of a weed (at least by my mother) than it is a desirable or prized plant in the garden.

This particular white wild rose bush was huge. Like many rose bushes, it will climb up other plants if not cut back on a yearly basis. This bush had not been trimmed back in forever. I knew it was going to be a dangerous job to get rid of it. I put on my gloves and grabbed some gardening tools.

The thing about taking out a bush like this is you must pull it out by the roots if you are going to get rid of it once and for all. If one just cuts it down, even if it gets cut down to ground, it will simply grow back. Cutting the plant down is not so simple with a rose bush. The wild rose bush is one plant that will fight back when you try to take it down.

This particular rose bush turned out to be much bigger than I originally thought. I had taken shovel and was hoping to be able to just get in there with it and dig it out. That was not to be. Many branches grew to the front of the plant in a thicket. They were bent over and lithe and protected the trunk of the plant with their thorns quite well. I took a look at the growth and decided I was going to need a pair of clippers to tackle this job, so I dropped the shovel and grabbed a clippers.

I started by clipping back a little at a time. One has to be very careful when trimming back such a plant. The thorns will stick you whenever they can. It's almost as if the plant has a mind and is trying to hurt you in order to protect itself. Soon I began to see the base of the bush better. I began to think about going at its base and trying to get at its roots. I decided that wouldn't be such a good idea. There was still a lot of outgrowth. I then noticed that the bush I was working on trimming back had vined out and was in the process of wrapping itself around several other nearby plants, including a nice but still small oak tree. Some of the vines had grown pretty thickly and were choking and threatening to kill off some of the other nice bushes around it. I sighed and decided these branches had to go.

As I clipped and pulled, clipped and pulled, I discovered just how difficult it is to get remove something that had grown so large and become so intertwined with the rest of the garden. The branches of the rose bush clung to the branches of the other plants they had wrapped around. Even after they were cut they had to be pulled forcefully to remove them from the nearby plants. At times they had to be gently unwound to keep them from damaging other more fragile plants. I did not wish to tear apart something that was desirable to get rid of something undesirable.

When one first starts such a project it may seem an impossible task. It certainly is an undesirable one. Still, I was persistent. I refused to give up. Yes, I wondered how we could have let something get so out of hand. Yes I wondered how something that seemed so innocuous could grow to be such a monstrosity, but I didn't let such thoughts slow me down. I know that had we paid more attention to it, that had we pruned the bush every year and made sure it didn't grow into places where it didn't belong, than it could have been a nice, pretty little bush adorning the garden. But this little bush that may have at one time been quite nice had taken over everything. It was choking the life out of the rest of the plants and now needed to be removed. I saw no other option. I certainly didn't want it there any longer for fear that even if it was pruned to a nub it might just grow back stronger.

As carefully as I could I trimmed back the vining branches and pulled them from the other vegetation. I was scrapped and cut up a little, but it was no big deal. I knew I was making the garden better. I realized I was giving the other plants more room to grow. I understood that once this bush that fought to strangle the other plants was removed it would be replaced by something else, something better, prettier, easier to deal with. The job was long and arduous, but I kept at it. Soon the once huge and entwined plant was laying in a pile of thorny branches on the ground. I carefully picked up the debris, put it in a wheelbarrow and took it to the burn pile to make sure it couldn't hurt anyone that happened to be passing by.

As I returned I was able to admire my work. Already the bushes, trees and shrubs that I had removed the imposing vines from looked more vibrant and were ready to grow healthier. The area was clearer and ready to accept more wanted growth. I got in with the shovel and was quickly able to dig up the stubs of the bush that were left. The ground didn't want to give up the root system as easily as I would have liked, but with some loosening of the soil and lots of pulling I was able to rip out much of the root system which was larger than I imagined. When all was said and done, it was quite a job but one that was well worth the effort. Next spring we will decide what to plant there in place of the bush.

One thing I noticed about gardening, you have to keep up with it. If you leave a garden go, it will quickly be taken over by weeds and undesirable plants. Some of them will get quite large and quickly take over, destroying the plants you wanted to grow. You have to pay attention to the garden or it will quickly become a nightmare to try to repair the damage that might be done. It will become something you did not want. Sometimes, things might grow that will hurt you when you try to remove them. But, even when things get a little out of hand, you can still take control and bring the land back to the way you desire it to be. After all, at one point in time the land was completely wild and we humans managed to tame it. Still, a little care in the garden, a little bit of attention all the time means we will avoid a big job at a later time.

Gardening is a nice pass time and I hope that more people can take the time to enjoy it in the future, even if they can just tend a tiny piece of land or a few flower pots. I hope you enjoyed my little essay on my gardening experience. I can now return to concentrating on writing political op/ed pieces once again.

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