16 Aug 2012
Pruning roses with my Dad
Y'know, my darling Dad speaks to me the whole time I'm pruning roses.
"Go on, give it a go, lass," he'll encourage when I don't know where to begin. "Just get started. It'll be obvious once you start to cut." He's right, too. The hardest cut is always the first one. "Roses are pretty forgiving. It's hard to make a mistake," he'll counsel.
Sometimes he'll give me instructions. "Cut out the little scraggly growth," I'll hear him say. "Look out for the nice strong water shoots." "Cut to an outward facing bud." "Clear out the centre of that bush." "Remember that you're wanting to fan the branches of those climbers. Roses can't flower on branches that are curving downward, but you want them almost horizontal." "Chop out those forward facing shoots that won't tie back against the fence. Take a risk!"
"Cut at an angle about half an inch from the bud or you'll end up with dieback at the tips." ( My Dad speaks in Imperial; not metric.) "Cut with your secateurs straight or you'll damage those blades." Um, yes, Dad.
This is the third time I've pruned my roses since my Dad died. The first time was only a few weeks after his death, and I wept through most of it. I remember him apologising to me only a few days before he died that he wouldn't be able to help me with them that year.
This year, though, I'm loving it, because when I'm out in that garden my Dad is helping me prune my roses. He's out there beside me. He's instructing me every step of the way. He's encouraging me. He's keeping me at it.
Pruning my roses is keeping my Dad speaking to me. And that is a very nice feeling indeed.