Brooding On

War with the Roses

When we first moved in to our house, I knew our front flower beds were bad, but I was at a complete loss as to what to do about it.  Having always rented, I was never expected to maintain a yard and didn't know the difference between a Marigold and a Mayflower (I actually still don't know what a Mayflower looks like, but you get the point).  Then, my mother (who has pretty much single-handedly taught me all I know about flora) stepped in and told me that I needed Knockout Roses.  And, my, was she right!  I started out with 2 bushes and now have bushes lining the entire front of the house.  And why not?  Look at these blooms!
So, what makes them different than, say, an azalea?  Whereas Azaleas (which prefer shade) may bloom once or twice, Knockouts will bloom continuously from spring to first frost.  And, they will be COVERED in blooms, as seen above!  They've become very popular, so more people know what they are now, but when I first put mine in 6 years ago, people would pull into our driveway and ask me what they were.  (I'm not exaggerating -- this really did happen on more than one occasion.)

Once a year, however, before they begin to get their new spring growth, it's time to go to war with the roses.  I have to cut them back because they grow like crazy and, if I didn't, they'd take over the house.  So, yesterday, as it was just another beautiful 75 degree February day (?), I got out my loppers and pruned away.  Actually, prune is not really the right word.  It sounds so precise, as if I carefully calculated each little snip.  What actually happens is much more like a massacre.  It's quite cathartic, I think -- good therapy.  I just go to town on those roses, chopping and chopping until there's hardly anything left.  I've done this every year; and every year, they come back in all their glory and never seem to hold a grudge.  Here's a before picture.

And, after, from basically the same spot.  Now, don't go feeling sorry for the poor roses.  You should see my forearms.  Believe me, they got in a few blows as well.  But, after hauling three tarp-fulls of rose remains to the burn pile, it was obvious that I'd emerged from the battle as the victor.

Now, all this cutting back of roses, crape myrtles, and mums led to me to more fully appreciate a plant of a different variety.  Let's consider the hosta.  I do love my hostas for several reasons. 
1.  I transplanted them from my late mother-in-law's garden bed after she passed away.  She loved getting her hands dirty in the soil, and every time I see them come up in the spring, I am reminded of her.
2.  They love shade, which I happen to have a lot of in the back of the house.
3.  They keep on giving.  When one gets too big, I can simply cut it through the middle with my shovel and transplant half of it to a new location.

But, I only just yesterday realized a whole new reason to love a hosta.  They clean up after themselves (and as a mother, I realize that this is not a trait to be under-valued).  As I was pulling out all the other dead stuff in the flower bed to make way for spring's new growth, I found myself wondering where the hosta had run off to.  There were no spindly dead leaves to remove at all.  Very nice.  It just seems to appear and then disappear.  I love it.