Roses draw blood, and they enjoy it.
– Popular Mechanics garden book
We all prize the gift that keeps on giving, but then there’s the other kind.
In my case it was a rosebush presented by a woman at church. She was known for her roses, and a few years before her death, she offered us an example of gracious green-thumbery.
Most roses require attention, and because I could not guarantee such, it was quietly planted in a sunny back corner of the yard where it could independently thrive. Or not.
It chose the former and began to produce pale, peach-pink blossoms that smelled delightful. It grew. So much so, that it soon required a trellis. One was constructed with a 4-by-4-inch post as its base, but the heavy growth began to take over, and it began to lean.
The solution — while not aesthetically attractive, was briefly effective — heavy support cords set out in various directions and staked into the ground.
Well, as most of you know, nature chuckles at human restrictions and decided to show off some backyard annexation. The rosebush overran its neighbors. A nearby hydrangea began to feel a thorny stalk slipping around her shoulder like a teenager’s arm in a movie theater balcony.
The thorny octopus took over grassy real estate, and if yardwork required I get close, I could expect thorns to stick in my clothes (or me). One once snagged the pull cord on the mower when I trespassed its vicinity, creating a whine of mechanical protest.
It was time for thorn-acopia to go.
With heavy clothes and thick leather gloves, I used a saw, an ax, and two different kinds of pruning tools (one looked like a bolt cutter) to chop off stalk after twisted stalk and pull them away from the core. Most held on, wrapping themselves around the old trellis and even two small sweet-gum trees in its protective custody.
It didn’t take long to figure out that cutting up a rosebush is only half the problem. Getting rid of long strings of sharp, bloodletting thorn stalks is another.
So, here’s what I did. I got an old, but thick, padded blanket, spread it, out and began to place the long-thorned tendrils on it. When I got it into a pile that I could no longer control, I placed another old, padded blanket on top of it and created a giant “thorn sandwich.” This I dragged maybe 40 feet into the woods behind the house before shaking both out with difficulty.
I repeated that process three times. Then I ran over my work site with a lawnmower. The job was done.
I was left with a memory of blossoms during happier times, a more spacious backyard and one tiny thorn stuck in the back of my left hand that I pulled out while taking a shower.
A parting gift.
Reach Bill Kirby at email@example.com