Wednesday, March 4, 2009

11 Pages

11 pages... intricately formatted, photographed, broken down and compiled... the pruning of modern bush roses in a rather tedious nutshell. The book itself shall remain unnamed, suffice it to say it is a much-read and highly regarded pruning guide published under the authority of the... oh, we'll call it the Shmamerican Shmorticultural Shmoshmiety. After these 11 pages is a small box with a photo depicting a disembodied pair of arms holding a hedge trimmer that has just blithely chopped through a rose bush at knee height. The gist of the accompanying text: feel free to disregard the preceding 11-page rose-pruning treatise. Instead, why not just whack the things down at about, oh, here, and be done with it. Apparently recent research has indicated that this crude (and probably satisfying) treatment may produce a healthier, better-blooming plant than all the conjured intricacy and lore of rose-husbandry through the ages.
I, for one, find this hilarious, and would like nothing better than to swing a machete through some hybrid teas to demonstrate the progress of modern horticulture. But I cannot. No, I must memorize the 11 pages that don't involve rosewhacking, like homework after years of freedom, and regurgitate them the next day in an earnest bid to convince a new client that I know roses like the back of my hand and love them like the air in my lungs.
In truth, I know roses like the inside of my lungs and love them like air in a hose.
Don't get me wrong, I'm always down for a good stop-and-smell-the-roses, I just have no desire to play patient nanny to a prima donna brat of a plant like the modern rose. Any organism that requires constant aseptic attention to avoid disfiguring disease and infestation could only be the work of centuries of human meddling... akin to certain dog breeds that cannot even be birthed without human intervention. Give me Rosa nutkana or R. rugosa any day, with cheerful hips and heavenly fragrant, simple, pretty flowers whose reproductive structures have not been sacrificed in some horticulturalist's orgy of endless petals, petals and more petals.
Now, I realize that I may have just offended or alienated quite a few rose lovers (not to mention dog lovers) out there. To you I issue a challenge: prove me wrong. Show me that modern roses pull their own weight in the garden; tell me how to look past their horrible shape and thorny demeanor; tell me why I should spend another minute picking off black spot riddled leaves; tell me why I should put up with a patented, trademarked problem child when its native cousin is growing carefree along the side of the road.
Do not let this bitterness and sarcasm fool you, I genuinely wish to be convinced otherwise. One of the things I love about gardening is how often I am proven wrong and end up eating my own words; I love rediscovering plants that I had written off long ago. Gardening passions are contagious, and sometimes just hearing someone get excited about a plant, even when it is not a favorite of mine, is enough to make me re-evaluate my prejudice. So rose lovers, get excited, defend your precious pretties; tame my tongue and sheath my machete, I am an easy convert.

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