A Hedge of Mythical Proportions

Probably the most common misconception of people who first come to our house is the age of the rose hedge out front. They see the overgrown tangle, and all sorts of romantic ideas spring up about it being original to the house, or at least a hundred years old.

In fact, I planted the hedge five years ago, and it IS happy to see you. My secret was putting a foot of compost down over the sand and planting the roses in that, then regular applications of alfalfa, composted chicken poops, and more compost. The rust and powdery mildew went away when we stopped irrigating (we have a fairly high water table here, so a deep-rooted plant will do just fine on ground water alone). Pretty basic when you get down to it.

For the last week I've been slowly working my way through the hedge for the annual deep pruning. Every time I do this, bar none, I get a few people walking by who remark on how big a project it is and how nice it will be when it's done. They're always shocked when I tell them this is something I have to do every year (I half-assed it last year and have really been regretting it this year). I think the idea of energetic plants that need routine pruning scares them. And what the heck, if they're not gardeners, that's a pretty reasonable fear.

Two thirds of the rose hedge pruned, with brush pile

The resulting brush pile is four feet tall and twelve feet long, and is primarily made up of bundles of Bermuda grass pulled out from the roses.

Still have a lot of roses to prune

I've still got a third of the roses left to prune and weed out (the ones on the right there), though those are not nearly as tangled up in Bermuda grass as the others were. And this year I'll be doing a big pruning on the rose over the arbor, since we will be moving that in the coming weeks when we build our retaining wall out front.

I would have done the rest today, but I managed to tweak something in my elbow while pruning before lunch, so I'm going to let that rest a little. Apparently it's going to rain cats and dogs tomorrow, with a chance of lightning, which should be dramatic and fun. We never used to get lightning storms here but this winter we've had a couple.

Next weekend we'll rent the chipper-shredder (assuming it's not raining), and you'll even be able to see the magnolia tree again behind that enormous brush pile. I've got another huge pile of prunings from the back orchard to add to the mix, and that combined with the pile of seasoned chips in the driveway should tide me over for wood chips for the next season.

Once we have the retaining wall, I can get to work designing and making blocks for a little patio around the magnolia, where we can sit in the evenings and gossip with the neighbors. That's something I haven't been able to do with the way the soil moves every winter around the roses (it would like to be flat, but our house sits a few feet above street level so flat is not an option).

posted by ayse on 01/29/11

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