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The bloom is off the rose

  • Blog Post by: Mary Jane Smetanka
  • October 2, 2012 - 11:32 AM

 

Now that it’s October and everyone senses winter lurking around the corner, my neighborhood is buzzing with people who are painting their houses, cleaning windows and generally hustling around their house and yard.
All summer long, I had walked by a tall, tipping trellis that sagged under the weight of an overgrown rose. Over the weekend, I finally grabbed my little chain saw and pruners and tackled the unwelcome job of reining in “William Baffin.”
The trellis had stood tall for over 20 years, until high winds ripped the overburdened frame off the side of the house last summer.

“William Baffin,” which bears masses of bright pink flowers in June, was a novelty when it was released in 1983. It was a hardy Canadian Explorer rose, meaning Minnesota finally had a climbing rose that didn’t need to be babied to survive. I drove a long way to buy my rose when it was still new to the market. After it was lovingly planted, “William Baffin” grew a little bit the first year, a bit more in the second year, and then took off.
And the battle began.
There was good reason the rose was so hardy. “William Baffin” grows like a maniac, in frantic surges that send canes shooting 15 feet high. Each March, I’d arm myself with leather gloves and a pruning saw and try to contain the rose, cutting out old canes and bending and tieing the young, limber canes to the trellis. When I was done my forearms looked like I’d been attacked by a cat.
The rose liked to drape a cane strategically over the water tap. By August, each time I bent to turn on the water, giant thorns would pierce my back, neck or arm.
So I have sort of had it with “William Baffin.” When I went out on Sunday I intended to saw him to the ground.
I had second thoughts when I considered the base of the plant, which was a good foot in diameter. Removing those roots was a bigger job than I wanted on this day. So instead of chopping the rose to the ground I sawed off the canes that reached into the yard, cut the trellis into pieces and wrestled it off the rose. I left the canes that were growing against the side of house.
When I finished, my arms were scratched but “William Baffin” looked more like the sedate climbing rose of year two than a wild thing about to take over the yard.

I know the rose’s enthusiasm will be unleashed next year, assuming it bounces back from such late-season butchery. I violated all the rules about pruning climbing roses so late in the season. But these days, what I do in the garden fits my schedule.
I may add a trellis next spring. Or maybe, if the rose starts to flop all over the place and grab me when I walk by, I will tackle those roots and finally get rid of “William Baffin.”
Ah well. That’s a decision for next year!
Do you have a job you have to get done before winter? Or something in the garden that’s been bugging you, but never seems to get done?
 

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