The Starter Farm

When plants attack

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A rose bush attacked me today. I was being an innocent caregiver, a helper to a flower that needed my attention like a visit to the beauty salon.  How could something so beautiful lash out so horribly?  I was just doing what I was told to make it look its best but this bush had other ideas.

            The day before, I had tricked Mary Ann to wake up earlier than usual to attend a rose trimming class at our local nursery.  I dangled the carrot of a breakfast of corned beef hash and hot coffee.   (This usually does the trick with her).  Taking our too cool for school approach, we took the back row seats, drank our coffee and acted like we could barely be bothered with the lesson even though I was secretly glued to the instructor’s every word.  I did not let on to Mary Ann that I was enthralled as not to be outed as the class dork.  I came for a lovely instructional class but what I witnessed was a nightmare. 

            I watched in horror as the instructor massacred this 4-foot tall rose bush into a 1.5-foot pile of sticks poking out of a pot of dirt.  What just happened?  Where were the police?  We had thirty witnesses to this crime and yet not one of them screamed out in horror as we watched the slow dismemberment of this lovely bush with no voice.  Of course, I could not say anything; remember one, I was doing the cool kid thing not to be discovered and two, I just though someone else would say something like in the “Bystander effect” we all read about in college where like 20 people witness a crime and everyone falsely assumes someone else will call 911.

            No sirens sounded, no police arrived and the group happily sat there asking questions about cutting and ripping suckers off the bush like it was a normal day in the park.  I was freaking out, screaming, “You’re killing it!” but of course keeping it all inside as to not alarm Mary Ann who happily sipped her coffee that I suspected was laced with Baileys.  (What other reason was there that she was so calm?)  And then it happened.  My eyes glazed over and I gradually slipped under the hypnosis. I became part of the flock like some convert under a spell, brainwashed into thinking that this was normal.  Yes, of course this bush needs its arms sawed off and yes that old cane that started this rose’s life needs to be eliminated.  It has served its purpose and now must sacrifice itself for the good of the community, err plant.  Get rid of those stupid leaves that produce food for the plant, the rose needs to go into a coma so it is prepared for the new born-again season.  Yes, yes it all makes sense now…

            One year I stupidly, or I might have just been lazy, did not trim the roses.  I thought, oh well what would nature do if I were not here to intervene, of course forgetting that deer, goats and wild herbivores existed.  That year I was rewarded with a lack-luster display of crappy flowers, an overgrown thorn fence that I did not install and a recurring disapproving stare from the neighbors with a side of “I told you so.” relish.  I now realize that you have to prune a rose back pretty harshly to stimulate good growth and flower production.

            So yes, I am now a believer.  I am still horrified by the dramatic pruning of roses (They will never survive that!) but am amazed at the miraculous recovery and explosion of growth and flowers that arrive in the spring.  I still do not think the roses like it at the time that it is occuring and perhaps that is why the incident happened.  There I was giving them their necessary trim and in my mind helping them, when one particular nasty bush decided to lash out and rip a hole the size of a finger in my new glove, barely sparing my skin.  I think it was a warning from the rose bush-“I know you have to do this to us but don’t get crazy.” 

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