THE GARDENER’S RESPITE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Respite

My right shoulder hurts. A lot.

At least half of that is an old injury from my riding days … and the rest is probably hauling heavy pots — with and without food — in the kitchen. Trying to find a position in which I can sleep with that shoulder wrapped in a heating pad is interesting. Because it’s my right shoulder and these days, I have to sleep on my back because that’s what my back wants, I can’t find anyplace to put the electric cord that is not underneath my head.

It is a lumpy cord and includes the piece for changing the settings, which is very lumpy. It makes sleeping a dicey affair.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, in theory, my son is coming over tomorrow to change the sink faucet — assuming his back isn’t out. I also asked him to come by (if it ever stops raining) with his big electric hedge clippers and cut down the rose bushes and rhododendrons.


There’s no way I can maintain them anymore. The flowers will get the entire garden. While the bushes will eventually grow back — probably sooner rather than later — at least I don’t have to stare at all those dead rhododendrons.

I will get a respite from our barbed wire roses and dying rhododendrons.

Bright lilies

I find a garden full of dead bushes a bit depressing. I don’t even know WHY they died, although they sent up a bunch of new, young shoots too … so maybe this is just their way of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new? Is that how these bushes usually work?

Daylilies with red roses in the back

As for the roses, these cruel, barbed-wire bushes have been (ahem) a thorn in my arms, hands, arms, and clothing for about 17 years. I should never have planted them and they have totally taken over. They not only get tall, but they send out runners,

House in summer

Merciless and cruel, I can see how they were used to protect property. No one would try to dash through those bushes. I don’t think they could unless they were carrying a flame thrower and frankly, I’m not sure the bushes would care. They are very durable. They should be properly removed by an actual gardener, but I’d have to pay someone to do it and I can’t.

At least cutting them down will give me a season’s respite from their claws. I’m sorry about the rhododendrons, though.

We didn’t plant it sensibly. Didn’t leave pathways … or rather, we did, but they got eaten by the daylilies and roses. I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be able to just hike up there and deal with the plants. Getting old is not only not fun, but it’s also a surprise.

You can count the years all you want, but you don’t really expect them to add up to “old.” No one plans to be old, even when we are planning for retirement. We think we will stay exactly as we are with maybe a few gray hairs.

I feel bad about it. It seems like murder. I’ve always encouraged plants to grow and cutting them down feels like a betrayal. I am comforted by knowing there will still be a few roses in the back and the daylilies will go into furious growth when they don’t have to battle with the thorn bushes.

You never imagine, when you plant a garden, that one day you won’t be able to care for it. It never crosses your mind. I was planning for an energetic old age that differed in no special way from being younger.


Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

16 thoughts on “THE GARDENER’S RESPITE – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I can only agree about getting old. Neither Mr.Swiss nor I expected what we got. We still have our heads that think, but the bodies no longer want to. I fight my MS daily and I think I am not doing too badly. Mr. Swiss would fight his back problems if he could, but there is no way that it would change. I am glad I got my garden redone. It hurt when a few beloved plants were no longer there, but I now have it more under control. I do not have such a large space as you do. I remember telling the gardener I would like some day lillies and she said no. They would take over and be far too much work for me. Hoping that your garden behaves eventually. We are really not getting any younger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I had the money, I’d have someone come in and make the garden manageable. But lacking funds, we’re going to have to settle for cutting them down. They will either come back or not. I love the way the roses look, but they are a disaster otherwise. I envy your small, well-contained garden. That’s about what I could handle, too. Like Marcel, my back is not going to get any better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Recently, we had to take out three blue spruce that have grown to amazing heights and threaten to fall on either somebodies property or on someone. We didn’t plant them but boy have they gotten out of hand and it’s an expensive undertaking.


    1. The roses were a big mistake. They were supposed to be pretty little “mini roses.” Well, they ARE small, but really what they are, are protective and extremely vicious thorny plants that grow like mad. They were designed to protect property from intruders and they certainly protect themselves from us. If we let them grow as they please, they reach out and grab anyone passing by. They are as strong as barbed wire.

      We had to cut down some trees too, both in the forest — which was very overgrown — and near the house because they were old and a spark would have turned them into giant fire starters. And yes, it IS expensive!! Very.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are in season — usually for just about a month from mid-May until July, after which’s it’s pretty much dead. This year all the rhododendrons are DEAD. I mean seriously finito. The NEW shoots are alive and healthy, but they are all twined up with the dead ones and getting the mess cleared out is beyond me now. The roses will never die because they renew themselves annually. In fact, if not cut back, they will get huge and kind of deadly, so cutting them won’t kill the. My son says this time of year they cut down their rhododendrons anyway and they always come back by late summer.

      The dead ones will go away, which I need them to do and the live ones will regrow and hopefully be more manageable. I just can’t climb up there and cut them back, branch by branch this year. I’m simply not mobile enough and falling is not a good idea. The daylilies will be fine as will the columbine and the spiderwort and the giant clover. In fact, I think the flowers will thrive without having to compete with the giant bushes. That’s what I hope, anyway. When we built those beds, I never imagined I’d be unable to clamber around the garden and deal with it, but that’s what has happened — and Garry was never a gardener. Pity. His father was a great gardener.


      1. Getting rid of the big dead bush will be good for the other flowers. I am not knowledgeable about their names but your garden seems to be a riot of color


  3. A garden that looks a bit wild is nice but you have to have some kind of control over it and dead stuff looks awful. At least what comes back will be more manageable and will look better. For the first few years I lived here my six big, thorny rose bushes got out of hand because I didn’t prune them hard enough. Finally, I got mad at them for scratching me and started to cut them right back every year. I can’t let them get too tall or I won’t be able to reach to prune them. If I am still in this house in July I guess I will be doing it again and may cut them back even harder. I’m always amazed by how quickly they grow back and how much in just a few months.


    1. I pruned them heavily last year, but last year, the rhododendrons were alive and well, Then, at the end of last summer, they pushed up a whole new set of young bushes and over the winter, the old ones died. And they are BIG and really ugly. And the roses are way out of control again. I can’t keep up with it. Roses 1, Marilyn 0.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When we lived in Adelaide I had Dutch Iris’s which had lovely flowers. It was a difficult garden, limestone based, rocky and impossible to dig. Gazania’s and the iris were the only plants that thrived apart from weeds. After a while the iris multiplied so I had a bed full of spiky leaves and not so many flowers. Not attractive.


  4. Today no work is being done in the garden. I am certain the heavy wet snow that has been coming down all day will kill off the daffodils and tulips. Hostas defy snow to land on them and we have a lot of hostas. Others are just getting started so being buried in snow for a day may not kill them off. I had to shovel the sidewalk today and was careful where I threw the stuff. The rose bush was cut way down, as recent years have seen it grew way tall and out of control, a total nuisance after the roses die off.

    Liked by 1 person

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