Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The War of the Roses

My love for roses goes back as long as I can remember. We had several varieties climbing along the waist-high chain link fence that separated our suburban back yard from our neighbor's corner lot.

Red climbing blaze, a pretty double white, a yellow one, perhaps Peace. They were all magical and smelled of heaven. I never minded a spot of blood or a big scratch from struggling to pinch an especially nice blossom just to smell to pieces.

Not Mom. Thinking back on it now, I vaguely remember her suffering from a thorn somewhere in the hand that got infected. Those were the days before neosporin; everything was usually treated with this awful stuff called mercurichrome. I ruined the living room (wall to wall)carpet spilling a bottle of it once.

The mercurichrome didn't save the roses-my mother tore them all out- much to my dismay.

When I acquired this piece of property in my 30's I still harbored my love of roses. I started collecting rose hips of wild varieties and growing the seed.

One I had especialy admired, I call it Sweet Briar. Incredibly long=climbing canes and showers of white, highly fragrant, blossoms. Airy, delicate lacy foliage. One combo I especially admired was a specimen growing up an apple tree.

The apple and briar bloom at the same time and it's quite the show.

My sweet briar was pretty one year, about 5 or 6 years old. It had grown up a good sized Balsam Fir. The fir had developed a hollow that the pileated woodpeckers had made drilling for ants. The red squirrel thought that would be a nice place to make a nest.

One day I saw one of the baby squirrels get hooked by that briar. Right in the corner of its mouth like fish on a hook. The cane held on like a spring-loaded tether. I carefully took off the tension by pulling on the cane and the squirrel fled.

After that it was known as the "Evil Rose".

It reached spiny needley tentacles into the driveway to snag unwary children on bicycles. It spread by root over the entire corner and would grab anyone who came near it in the garden.

I got after it a few years ago and beat it back into the corner. Last year my oldest had at it from the driveway side, carefully pruning out all the old canes[ intent on encouraging bloom. Still it disappointed with just a handful of blossoms that opened the day a big wind blew and were gone the next day.

Today I was turning over the bed that borders it, and I took one of the evil fishhooks right in the open eyeball and another across the cheek. That was it., I dropped the digging fork (actually Willow took it and dug a whole other bed by herself) and went for the loppers.

I lopped and I yanked and I lopped and I yanked and yanked. The darn canes were all entwined and hung up on ones I hadn't cut yet. The rose put up a heck of a fight!I was clawed and stuck but I had on leather gloves and a baggy long sleeved shirt and sweatpants. I thought the shirt might have torn in a couple places at one point as the canes whistled around my head and snarled me up.

Finally I had the canes out of the way. The original rose was about 5 inches across at the base so I started trying to grub it out. Did I mention it was at the base of an ash tree? I went after it with the fork and two different types of picks or mattocks, and my bare hands and loppers. That took at least an hour.

Then I went after the offspring. I found a runner root on one sucker six feet away that was an inch and a half wide and over four feet long running the other way down the path to where I don't know, because at that point in dropped deeper than my fork and broke off somewhere deep.

I swore at myself for putting the thing anywhere near my garden. I swore at myself for feeling sorry for it years ago and letting it stay thinking I could keep it in bounds. My rampant mints and moneyworts were a walk in the park compared to this beast. Ten foot blackberry canes would cower in shame in front of this monster.

Four hours later and a plea to the Firebird who pulled two of the bigger suckers and that was all that could be done. Many roots remained. I feel like I angered the beast and it was lying there battered and bruised and hiding in retrea...t but already planning how to takeover the world.

I scrounged several sections of battered black plastic and carefully covered the whole 10X10 area. Then I put a layer of clear plastic on top to really shine the heat on., In a couple of days I am going to start layering hay on top. Then I am going to make nest spots I will fill with soil and plant squashes. Yet I still see in my mind's eye the deterimed briar sprouting up around the edges.

Time will tell. Tomorrow, the raspberries and blackberies are due for spring cleanup. Hmmm, Where did I put that neosporin?