The weather finally broke and today was an exquisite spring day. Our maple tree is in bud. The buds are fat and red and this morning, the little red finch was sitting on a limb and the only way to tell he and the buds were different was that he was moving more than the twigs.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There was no point in trying to get a picture. It’s a really bad angle and there’s a big smudgy window in the way, full of dog-nose prints and the little gray lines of lint that rain drops leave behind.

You’d think the rain would clean the windows, wouldn’t you? It makes them even dirtier. And yesterday, it poured buckets for the entire day. Our sump and pump were in overdrive, but at least we didn’t flood.

When I got up this morning and opened the shades, the sky was robin’s egg blue with a few high cumulus clouds just to give a nice balance to the sky.

Today was it. Clean out the garden or die trying.

Last year, we did it in one day, but the terrible winter weather seems to have escalated growth.

The hard part of this experience is cutting back the hedge roses. When I bought these supposedly “miniature roses,” I was thinking “ah, lovely scented roses in my garden.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I was not thinking lethal, killer thorn bushes that were originally grown to keep burglars out of the yard. They could keep anyone out of the yard. They spread like crazy and for every rose, there are a thousand thorns. A barbed wire fence is friendlier than these roses, so pruning them is a job nobody wants, which is why I do it.

My son hates those roses. My husband thinks all the flowers are pretty, but he is no gardener. His father was a good gardener, but Garry didn’t inherit the gene — if there’s a gardening gene.

I like plants, but I really prefer looking at them to grappling with them … and then, there are the roses. Last year I trimmed them lightly and the result was barbed wire rose shoots everywhere. They also crawl along the ground and send up new shoots, by the way. We’ve got them in red and pink and they look very pretty in bloom. Not much scent, though. These are the barbed wire roses of old British country houses.

After I convinced Garry that no, he should NOT shower first, we went outside. I was armed with the expensive clippers I bought a couple of years ago.

Owen said I didn’t need them.”What’s wrong with the cheap ones?” Every year, I’m delighted to have them. They really cut cleanly and you don’t need to be a giant with brute strength to get them to lop off a branch.

I had to figure out how to get up to the bushes. Our garden is raised, but you have to remember which rocks you can stand on … and which ones are dodgy and might make the wall come down. I’m not exactly a good climber.

Basically, I cut every piece of rose-bush I could reach, being only 5’1″ tall. I got stabbed and torn. Like a true gardener, I wiped the blood off on my arms onto my jeans and lopped off another branch. If you think for a minute that they will not all regrow faster than I can say “what did I do with my shears?”, you’re wrong. These hedge roses are sturdier than the weeds. I should know because we have weeds. Serious ones.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry got into the raking and dumping into the trash can. HE was wearing the leather work gloves, so I did the bleeding, but he did the bending. I guess that makes us even.

We didn’t finish. I also have a gigantic holly bush which I had to clip back. If I didn’t cut it back, we wouldn’t be able to get in and out of the yard. I couldn’t clip the top branches. Owen’s going to have to get to them. I’m too short.

Then I had to dig out the well-head. It’s not a good idea to have your well buried in garden soil. No matter how hard you try, the dirt will sink into the well and your water will turn muddy. We have filters to keep out the dirt, but there’s more dirt than filters.

There were more earthworms than I’ve ever seen in one place. They kept popping up and I kept pushing them back into the dirt. I also tried the best I could to get the strangle weed cut back, but it’ll return. You can’t pull the roots out without the rocks falling down, so all I can do is cut them as close to the earth as possible and hope I can keep lopping them off as they come back. Which they will do. Soon.


When we were done for the day and too tired to do anything more, we agreed to finish up tomorrow. It too is supposed to be lovely. I managed to shear most of the sprouting killer roses and made it possible to walk past the holly without it grabbing you and hauling you into fairyland. You didn’t know there was a fairy kingdom in the middle of the giant holly bush?

Tomorrow will be easier. Mostly raking. I think an hour or two will do it for now.

The flowers are on the way. While we worked, four dandelions bloomed and I swear the daffodils finally set some buds. We have lots of columbine coming up, too and tons of day lily flags. I think the awful weather actually improved the hardiness of the plants. If it made it through last winter, nothing will kill it.

Categories: Flowers, Gallery, Gardens, Garry Armstrong, Nature, New England, Photography

Tags: , , , , , , ,

43 replies

  1. Lovely pictures. Glad spring’s arrived at last!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful yard you have, thorns or not. And the pictures? Excellent, but what else do we expect from two people who have a real talent for capturing beauty? Bravo.


  3. Yay! I planted wild daffodil bulbs last fall and they’ve bloomed. Very delicate and lovely. One iris — a mini yellow one — is going to open today. ❀


    • If it had not been cold and rainy today, I think our might have considered blooming. The lack of sunshine is sure slowing down this process. I have to remember that the reason Memorial (aka Decoration) Day is set for the END of May is because THAT is when our flowers are blooming. May, June, and the beginning of July and then … unless you are a lot more fervent a gardener than we are, it’s over.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your garden looks lovely Marilyn. I do know it’s a lot of work but it shows well.


    • It’s raining, so we aren’t going to go and finish the raking. I’m not sure I could. I’m a giant sore muscle — and for all his daily exercise, so is Garry. It isn’t the exercise — it’s WHICH EXERCISE. You get a great upper-body workout cleaning up the thorn branches and he kept thinking they were reappearing like magic. Of course what happened is they got stuck, so when I raked, out would come a whole new load of thorns. If we don’t get anything else done, getting those bushes cut back is going to matter a lot, especially when I realize we CAN walk to the gate without getting mutilated by roses.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Spring gardening is hard work, but the rewards are seen the rest of the summer. I’ve downed some Aleve, used numerous ice packs and a Tens machine this week, and I hardly made a dent. I have too many beds even though I keep getting smaller each year. I can imagine your roses will be beautiful after a nice haircut. πŸ™‚


    • My muscles are reminding me. We’re not going to get the rest of the raking done today. I don’t think we have it in us and anyway, it was pouring a couple of hours ago and everything is soaking … so maybe middle of the week. I’m glad it’s a smallish garden. I don’t think we’d survive anything bigger. The thing is, though the amount of ground is pretty small, everything IN it is HUGE. I remember planting all the lilies — the fancy ones (almost all gone — the bad winters just took them out) and the day lilies, which have thrived. And the columbine. I think I planted two of them and we much have thirty of them now. Lots of wildflowers, too. I encourage wildflowers because they at least can put up a fight against the strangle weed.

      We put those roses in and they were just tiny shoots. All the “fancy” tea roses croaked during the second bad winter and the hedge roses thought that was their cue to take over all vacant spots. They are total killer roses.


  6. Brilliant work! And you have columbines that also grow wild in my garden. Lovely.


  7. It looks wonderful… but there are always those few weeks a year wen every gardener’s forarms are scratched to high heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done, and the results were worth it. Every little twinge in the joints will remind you of your garden

    Liked by 1 person

    • I woke up this morning and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the bathroom. It’s only about 10 feet, but every muscle hurt. AHA I cried! Time for … (wait for it) THE MUSCLE RELAXANTS. And three Tylenol. I have the same dose to Garry and we woke up a couple of hours later feeling human and able to move. Sore, but we could actually “flex.” I’m full of thorn holes, mostly from the roses, but also from the Holly tree. I will be much happier when everything FINALLY blooms!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Felt like we were Paul Newman and George Kennedy….on the chain gang in “Cool Hand Luke”. However, it was nice to get that badly needed garden cleanup started. I know there’s more to do.


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