The Three Ways to Prune Roses – lessons in nurturing

When we bought our current house in 1990 we were mostly attracted by the garden. It is on two levels and had been carefully laid out 20 years before when the magnolias, below, were planted and the steps constructed. The then owner was no gardener (leaving aside he was wanted for financial fraud  and a tad distracted). Consequently the once proud garden was a tangle of shrubs and mated herbaceous borders.

PhotoScan (26)

Even here, Mum has spotted something that needs doing

One feature I couldn’t really warm to were the beds full of hybrid tea roses. The garden had over 120 roses – as well as hybrid teas there were standards and climbers. I spent a couple of years extracting thorns from my hands as I carried out a campaign of scrubing out the ones we didn’t want. Some still survive today.

PhotoScan (27)

Lots of colour and fewer roses…

In our previous garden, a labour of love which we created from scratch, we had two, very young climbers. So I was rather daunted by what I needed to do with these prickily  jungles. My mother has always been the horticultural expert in my family so it was to her I turned. I needed lessons on pruning.

With my mother, I learnt young: you don’t just turn up and say ‘how do I…?’ No. ‘Have you looked in a book, darling?’ was invariably her first question. She expected as much self education as possible.

PhotoScan (29)

The before… see the roses behind the Lawyer and the Textiliste? And the pond went too but that’s another story.

So I already knew the very traditional way of pruning: cutting back to just above a bud that points outwards. You also make sure the stems do not cross. It is fiddly and inevitably painful.

When I told mum she nodded, but then said, ‘what about the other two ways?’ I was stumped. The text books didn’t suggest alternatives.

Mum had read and listened and watched. And she had gleaned that, while the ‘correct’ way gets you a desired result: a disease free bush as likely to overflow with blossom as not – it is not the only way.

She taught me random clipping and the no. 4. It was like haircuts. You could go to a barber and have your hair cut neatly with scissors, all layered and just so, or you could clip away at a fringe yourself, getting the shape right but leaving the interior alone or you could go at it with clippers, just cutting to a shape, the same length all over and devil take the interior.

All three worked. We experimented and the best blossom for two years was on the bushes we cut randomly. After two years, some needed a little extra work, to take out some of the crossovers. But really, you could choose.

PhotoScan (30)

Always room for a game of football…

Down the years I’ve made countless friends; some have lasted an age. In my early years I fluctuated between an intense need to spend time with friends and a shyness that might have looked like indifference. All or nothing. I received lot advice around the right way to nurture friendships and to me it seemed I was doing everything wrong.

I received and absorbed even more advice about children. The ‘English’ disease as I heard it called just today has us agonise about our children’ schools because in a lot of ways we can have a choice, especially for those who can afford to contemplate a private education. Which has the best rep, the best results, the most nurturing culture? And you know what? I had about as much clue trying to choose schools for my two children as I did a car or a food processor. Or pruning a rose. How do you decide which is the right one for your precious?

Back then there wasn’t the flood of information we have today courtesy of the internet but does that make it any easier? The heck it does. Why? Experts. The people who remove instinct and gut from the equation. Who in effect encourage you to ignore the experience of the actual front line users.

My mother taught me to look at the rose – really look. Were its leaves healthy? The buds? If so then do what you like. But if it was looking leggy, forlorn, diseased then try another tack. Don’t just slavishly follow a mantra.

With friends I’ve learnt some thrive with a constant contact and others are better with the occasional weekend full on. Just see how things pan out. And I had to remember those friends will decide, as much as me how that friendship is to work.

PhotoScan (28)

And some friends you can never get them off your back…

And schools? What did I think of the head? The head of lower school? Did I know other parents and their children who went there. And what did the children, in those off-guarded moments at playtime, and to and from the school, look and sound like. Happy? downbeat? The thing is there isn’t a ‘right’ one. Most will probably be ‘right’. Just be sensible about it.

Exam results? State of the art facilities? Extensive playing fields? Nah, none of that really matters. Education is all in the people.

If you want to nurture anything first and foremost let your own senses tell you what is likely to work, of which the sixth sense – common sense – is by far the most important. Form a view and then if that view is contradicted, well, by all means wonder why but don’t change just because of someone else’s views, however expert and well-meaning. When it comes to nurturing people, or plants there’s no one way. There’s no right way.

And sometimes, as my mother also taught me in the garden, the plants thrive with apparent neglect.

We live in London. It is what you expect of any multi-million-inhabitant city. Busy, bustling and a nightmare of worries when it comes to growing children.  London has a comprehensive and generally fabulous bus service as well as overground and underground trains. It is pretty well lit and whatever the Daily Scare might tell you it is still pretty safe to walk the streets and travel around. So despite the diet of woes on the news we had to let go. That severing of control is perhaps the most difficult part of nurture. Because we say it is common sense that we should protect them, drive them here and there. Well the common sense is actually telling us something else. That we protect them by ensuring they understand danger signs, be it busy junctions or dodgy people, but they do have to go off on their own to put those lessons into practice. Otherwise all we do is drive them to distraction.

It is important we nurture our gardens as much as our friends and our children. But we do no one any favours when we mistake a nurturing environment for a controlling one.

This post is part of the 1000 voices speak for compassion series and the April 20th topic of ‘Nurture’.



About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in #1000speak, miscellany and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Three Ways to Prune Roses – lessons in nurturing

  1. lucciagray says:

    Winderful post, Geoff. Getting the balance right between nurturing and controlling, the experts’ opinions and your gut feelings. I’m still struggling with the answers as I watch my children bring up their children. I love the way you remind us that some wild roses survive without any help.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sacha Black says:

    Awww, love this post. I too am a bit of a all or nothing person. One of my best and worst traits. Means I am capable of achieving so muc, and yet can have an apathy like no other. When it comes to friends, I have gone through such turmoil, lost so many over the years, and recently with the change in life circumstances and new baby lost most of them, I think though that it was more my fault than theirs. I’m different, want different things. I love that your mum would point you in the direction of a book, what fantastic parenting, I am of the teaching independence and self help ethos too, so I admire her immensely. Only one thing…. What if my instinct is rubbish? I have an awful ability to judge people, sometimes I can nail it, others so so so wrong when I think people are wonderful and end up hurt… Annoyingly the other Mrs. Black is usually right about people something I can’t stand to accept!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Well mum would still say your instinct is worth listening too. I think her point is trust it. If someone says x and you feel that’s not right then trust your judgement. Sure it may be wrong but mostly it will serve you we’ll. and the Textiliste is the same. Always spot on. Give it another 30 years and like me you’ll have accepted it!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • roweeee says:

      Hi Sasha,
      I read the new baby bit in your comment and send you a huge wave and hope things are going well. Such a huge adjustment and yes, alot of our friends changed not out of anything malicious but our roads had diverged. I found a playgroup with writers and photographers etc and didn’t look back. Actually, I lie. I am still looking back but also looking forward. JUst wish I could lead a number of lives simultaneously but that’s also why I blog. It’s the next best thing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sacha Black says:

        Hi there 🙂 ahh thank you for the friendly wave, I say new… He’s almost a year and a half! So not new new but still new to me! Gosh you are so lucky to have found a group of creative parents that’s like the absolute jack pot 😄

        Haha I know what you mean about simultaneous lives! Amen to writing fiction and stories! 😄

        Liked by 2 people

      • roweeee says:

        Amen to that!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. noelleg44 says:

    Fun in the garden! And good advice about roses, my husband, the rose grower, could use. He and I are the benign neglect type of gardeners.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jen @ Driftwood Gardens says:

    YES! There are many different ways to nurture different relationships. I love the metaphor of pruning rose bushes. And your gardens, by the way, are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A lovely post for the theme of nurturing. I guess I too fall under the “all or nothing” category. I too tend to be plagued with indecision, always wondering if I am doing the right thing, especially when seniors/ my peers suggest an alternate way. Sometimes, we just need to trust our instincts and go with it.

    Here’s my post:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    This is brilliant I love the way you weave your Mum and the family into the post. Nurture be it garden friends or children you have encapsulated the subject perfectly! I am going to reblog if you don’t mind. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    Reblogged this on willowdot21 and commented:
    A brilliantly knowledgeable post for 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion . The Subject is Nurture. Thank you Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. roweeee says:

    Great post, Geoff and I echo the previous comments about nurturing versus control. Our son is now 11 and goes to high school next year. It reminds me of when he started school and having to get my head around his world growing. He had spent his life up until that point either fenced in or highly supervised so big school was a big leap. Now, we’re looking at him really starting to go free range and riding his bike to school and catching the train down to Sydney to see my parents. We are now needing to equip him so he can make these transitions wisely. Scouts is coming in very handy there.
    By the way, I now have a pond. I salvaged a gorgeous large pot from Palm Beach which I’m planning to stock with lilly pads etc. Our daughter wants tadpoles. With the heavy rain, it filled overnight. By the way, much of Sydney and north into the Hunter Valley is now a pond filled with fallen trees. Stay tuned for the pics xx Rowena


  9. A fabulous garden enhanced once more. Puts a smile on my face to see the love and time spent in the garden. Home sweet home. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Charli Mills says:

    We were both drawn to flower analogies…you and your English roses, me and my rambling dandelions. 🙂 I still don’t know how to properly prune a rose…I guess and I clip…is that the random way? I’m better at nurturing friends, I don’t clip so randomly or close my eyes when I do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yvonne says:

    Well, I learned a lot reading this. As a child, I got off to good start with gardening and had my own little patch, but I’ve never managed to develop any skill at it and no matter what we do our garden tends to look untended. Actually, we’re going for the unkempt look to help out the bees… nevertheless, it is great to know that if I ever decide to learn which type of roses adorn our garden I can come back here and read up on how to prune them. Still, I’m not as bad as my husband who had to be stopped by a neighbour when he went to “prune” our lilac tree close to its base, thinking it was a buddleia.
    And yes to your point in this post – nurturing isn’t controlling.

    Liked by 1 person

If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.