Pruning the Roses

The truth is, it had been so cold outside in the wind that I didn’t really notice the pain. It wasn’t until the hot water of the shower thawed out my hands, turning each splinter and scratch into a violent shade of red, that the stinging truly began.

My hands and wrists are covered in red marks. It’s like they have the measles. I was even wearing those “rose-lover’s” impervious gloves.

I’m convinced it’s a very bad idea to plant climbing roses this close to a house. The landlord planted them – clearly many years ago – on either side of the front porch. I guess it was meant to look romantic. But they just grab and assault anyone who tries to reach the front door – scratching, clawing, stealing your wallet. Plus robust, vigourous climbing plants will destroy a house given half a chance. They look lovely in photos. They look less lovely when they’re growing through the roof space and tearing apart the electrics. These are vandal plants.

Unfortunately, this house is a rental and the roses have been very badly maintained over the years. There are two large banks of bush roses and this set of four (criminal) climbing roses. Over the past 18 months I have managed to tame the bush roses and form them into nice open vase shapes – some are a bit lop-sided, but you do what you can. The climbing roses, however, seem to take the shape of that squiggle doodle everyone does when they’re checking if a ballpoint pen works. They’re growing outward, inward, upward and downward. There’s lots of dead and diseased wood in them, but it’s hard to get to because they’re so dense.

So I killed them.

Well, not killed. I pruned them back incredibly hard – taking all day and cutting off about 2/3 of what was there. Now the summer will let me know whether they bounce back even stronger or just die because I took off so many of the growing tips. Either way… it’s not my house anyway so I don’t care. Plus they got their revenge as I worked. I’ve taken six thorns out of my skin since finishing my shower. I will never plant climbing roses anywhere other than on a fence, a long way away from the house, that I don’t care if they destroy. Or in the yard of somebody I hate.

I really wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble pruning them if it weren’t for the fact that we’ve got another property inspection coming up this week and (after the breach notice following the last inspection) I wanted to make it massively evident that I’ve pruned things. Since the complaint came through back in April (when you don’t prune roses), they obviously don’t care if I prune things appropriately – they just want to see the roses all cut up.

Ideally, I should actually have pruned them in June. However, June was very warm and they just kept on flowering. I kept waiting for them to go dormant and drop their leaves, but that never happened… as evidenced by the fact that today’s work produced the vase of (wild and wind-beaten) blooms above. So I’ve cut them while they’re still sappy. As I said: they might die, but I can’t make the weather colder and I can’t make the property manager understand gardening.

When they come by on Tuesday, they will see stumps of roses and a pile of cuttings. Hopefully this will be enough that we don’t prompt another letter, as I’m staying optimistic that we’ll be moving out before our next inspection and I want to get our bond back.

Of course, given our appalling rude property manager, that last bit may be a little too optimistic.




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