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The Rose Slaughter

I spent this morning out in the rain with my husband, cutting up five of the big rose bushes left behind by the former owner of our house. I took out four more awkwardly placed rose bushes last year, adding two new beds for annual vegetable production, and after taking a month-long class on permaculture this fall (free online from OSU—I highly recommend it!), I knew this second culling would help take my garden to the next level of production.

But it wasn’t an easy decision. The roses were all old and well-established, between twenty and forty years old, and highly productive. Only a few were strongly scented, but they churned out flowers from April to November every year. The squirrels loved clambering in their branches and eating the new buds. I loved being able to gather a bouquet any time we had company or whenever I got the urge.

The roses’ leaves were constantly black-spotted, though, and most of them would grow to ten or twelve feet tall without constant trimming. I couldn’t justify the constant maintenance and feeding regimen that they demanded to stay pretty. I only have a certain amount of time to spend in the garden, and there are only so many resources I can devote to a plant that doesn’t feed me or my soil.

Gardening is great about teaching us how to make hard decisions. We all have limited time and resources, and some endeavors that were once fulfilling stop giving back. There are traditions we ache to maintain because they connect us to the past—some are well-worth keeping, and others are vampiric, draining us of what we need to move on and grow.

I don’t know yet what I’ll plant in the old rose bed, and it will take some time under cover crops for the soil to become really inviting for edibles. But whatever I put there, it will offer beautiful flowers and something new for the squirrels to explore. They certainly have enjoyed the new garden beds I created last year, and so have I.

Winter carrots
The beautiful purple carrots I harvested from the garden this week.