gracing my garden: a once-magenta bougainvillea, a crape myrtle, a blue
hibiscus and a lantana. I haven't had the heart to dig them up yet.
I gaze at them while I do the morning dishes. I pretend they are
deciduous plants waiting for the warmth and rain of spring. I enjoy how
their bare branches extend and sway and glint in the winter light like
the arms of so many charming ballerinas.
Of all the plants in my garden my roses do best. Each year they supply
me with blooms enough for my vases, the vases of a few neighbors, family,
friends and strangers. I have to admit they get some help from my husband
Michael. But rose gardening is not his hobby. It's mine. At least that is
the way I intended it.
So I signed up for a workshop on rose care. My instructor drew roots,
bud grafts and unions, canes, laterals and flowering shoots. She talked
about good soil, deep watering and feeding. She explained how to
recognize suckers and how to keep diseases at bay.
Roses shouldn't be crowded. They need room to breath. They need rest.
Stress and neglect cause damage. The damage leaves scars that hamper
growth. Spent wood, dead wood, suckers and puny shoots must be cut away.
Above all else, the health of the plant comes first. It comes before
cutting long stem roses, if getting the long stems means cutting the
plant too low too soon. No instant gratification. It comes before hanging
on to canes that really need to go. No clinging to the past.
The more I listened, the more I found myself applying this gardener's
wisdom to my own well-being, as much as to the care of my roses. It
echoes many of the lessons in scripture drawn on sowing, tending and
In a story about a barren fig tree a gardener begs for time to the
restore the unproductive plant.
"Sir, just one more year," the gardener implores his boss, "I will dig
around it and put in some fertilizer. If the tree bears figs next year,
so much the better; if not, then you can have it cut down."
I'm reminded and grateful that God is as patient with me.
A proverb tells the story of a lesson gleaned from a stranger's
"I walked through the fields of a lazy, stupid man. They were full of
thorn bushes and overgrown with weeds. I looked at this, thought about
it, and learned a lesson from it."
As I took notes on how to care for my roses, I noted the thorn bushes
and weeds that have taken root in my life -- busyness, clutter and
distraction. At times I tend my life as poorly as I tend my roses. I need
to foster and restore good habits in myself as much as them.
I'll amend the soil around my roses. I'll water them deep and feed
them. I'll do my best to make out which canes on my bushes and vines to
cut and which to keep. Then I'll let them rest and breathe. As I work,
I'll pray that God will help me do the same in me.
I look forward to the spring.
* MICHELE MARR is a freelance writer and graphic designer from
Huntington Beach. She has been interested in religion and ethics for as
long as she can remember. She can be reached at o7