I spent the afternoon drastically cutting back my rosebushes.
The bushes attacked me as they always do, snagging my jacket, my shirt, my pants as I tried to squeeze by, clippers in hand. The roses are glorious in bloom, but they are overgrown, and there were dead canes in several shrubs that will be impossible to remove once they leaf out. The thorns worked through my gloves, too - not the big ones (they are easy to avoid) but the little ones that just slip in through the seam to tear at the skin. It is clearly time this year to do the serious surgery I have avoided for the last six or so - old garden roses do not need to be pruned the way hybrid teas must be every year. I even cut one bush back to the ground, even though it is a lovely shrub, because it is now nearly completely overshadowed by the bushes on either side of it. To leave it is to invite disease to all three. If it leafs out, I'll dig it up and find a new spot for it. If the shock was too much, I'll pull out the roots and that will be that.
This is an act of faith. Even though I am a knowledgeable enough gardener, and I know that pruning stimulates plants to put out new branches and blooms and that old and dead canes need to be thinned out to allow for air to circulate and all that, I still hate cutting off the canes that I see are already full of tiny red leaf buds. I hate cutting off the leaves that are already on the bush (most of them having hung on throughout the winter) even though I know that they are old and need to go. I hate the look of the bare canes poking up like match sticks stuck in a pot. It is hard to imagine that in six weeks, they all will be in full leaf and in eight weeks the yard will be in full bloom. But it will. It always does.
Most of us would prefer to keep our protective outer layer on, intact, even when it is old and tattered and not going to produce much in the future. We probably find ways to fight back, too, when someone comes too close with the shears. We think - we beg: "Let me keep my three ragged, yellowing leaves at least until a new glossy green one sprouts forth; don't leave me naked to the elements even though a wonderful mystery is happening inside me. Because I'm afraid it won't sprout and I'll be left a group of chopped off sticks, my deficits out there for everyone to see while my potential growth is somehow trapped inside."
It's hard to have faith. But that mysterious quickening happens again and again, just as it always does.