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January 6, 2010 > Pat Kite's Garden: A rose for the newest year

Pat Kite's Garden: A rose for the newest year

By Pat Kite

Some people prune their roses properly. First remove all dead wood. Go about one inch below the demised area. If you see a nice little healthy sprout, you can chomp about 1/4- inch above that. Your healthy sprout should point outward. Do your cutting with a sharp garden tool at a 45-degree angle. Since blood donations should be accomplished at a Red Cross or similar site, wear protective gloves.

If you have sucker growth, that energetic stuff popping out from the rose base, you want to extirpate it. Why? Many roses today have their flowering part attached onto a stronger rose base. The suckers or "reversion growth" coming from this base will eventually shroud the entire plant. Instead of your beautiful big pink or yellow roses, you will get a zillion probably little red roses. Of course those are kind of cute in a way, so it's up to you.

Anyhow, after you have finished tidying, do the serious pruning. You can thin, removing squiggly canes that crisscross or point inward. The rose bush can be seriously cut back, usually to 18 to 24-inches high. Of course with tree roses, there are two bud unions, one on top of the trunk and one at the base, so count your 18-inches from the top bud union, rather than lopping it like George Washington's cherry tree.

For years I only cut minimal amounts from my 40-plus roses because I imagined them weeping as I trimmed. However now, when in a bad mood, I go out with my lopping shears and hack away. I still get lots of roses. Pruning season hereabouts starts in January.

Since readers like stories, here is one, from Romania:

Once upon a time, a beautiful forest rose bush perfected itself into just one exquisite rose bud. Upon opening, the bud gave birth to Trandafir, a handsome prince. The prince eventually went into the wide world. But viewing all the wars and miseries, he began yearning for the peace of his infancy. Returning to the forest, he asked the trees, where is the rose bush that gave birth to me? It is dead. So he asked the birds, and only one remembered it.

The nightingale spoke, saying, "It is gone and I have come to sing its funeral song. It was a noble rose-bush with a prince for a flower." Trandafir replied that he was that prince, and he wished to be a rose again. "I wish to be a life that harms no other life, and leaves the world better when it is ended."

"Then I will stay," the nightingale said, "until I have sung your soul back into the rose." And so he did. The prince lost all memory of the world of men. He sank into the earth, growing roots in every direction. His eyes closed to the earth, and saw only the sky. And, at dawn, as the nightingale sang its last soft notes, there was an exquisite rose-tree.

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