What's Good for Roses Is Good for You

If you expect blossoms next spring, a severe cutting back is a must end of fall garden ritual for roses. Before they go dormant for the winter, there may be a chance to coax one, maybe two more bloom cycles with a thorough pruning now.

An otherwise mundane chore to some, pruning roses is part of my self-care routine, especially important to keep up in the winter holiday whirl which is now underway. It keeps socializing in perspective. Perhaps it's a chance to step out of human time and into human being with another natural cycle.

'Trimming the hips," as I call it -- nicking the flower turned to seed -- is ongoing maintenance of bushes that have budded and bloomed two dozen times throughout the spring and summer. The bargain is simple and satisfying. The more I pay attention to trimming, weekly watering and fertilizing biannually, the more the bushes bloom.

Light exercise like this burns 150 calories per hour. It is deeply gratifying on a number of different levels. It helps me feel good no matter what else is going on.

There is a growing body of evidence that being in close contact with soil also exposes one microbes helpful in countering symptoms of anxiety and depression. Imagine a world if it were true. Is it possible that one could encounter a reliable and effective, non-toxic, anti-depressant and anxiety suppressant as common to the natural world as dirt?

Pruning takes about 15 minutes per bush, without rushing. Paying attention and taking my time enriches the mindful, meditative experience this has become. I prefer doing it without earphones playing music, though I suppose one could. It is a pleasure to be outdoors, active and purposeful. This way I can listen for humming and song birds. I will admit that air traffic and crows' caws are annoying.

Tending to roses is a potent and positive distraction for me. I am in the service of something worthwhile, beyond and close by; as close as the earth beneath my feet. Start by stepping away from the bush. Think of it as a living sculpture in the shape of a candelabra.

Enter the bush with shears snipping from the outer edges moving inward. Repeat from the top to the bottom of the bush and back up again. Cut a tad above the tiny nib, just above the leaves in a well-formed five-leaf pattern. Try not to have the branches cross over each other.

I have found this Candelabra technique, learned from Lewis Perkins, to be very effective for maximizing blooms producing bushes that appear to be lit from within. Blossoms are at the base and tippy-top, deep within the bush and its exterior reaches.

In working gardens, these bushes bursting with flowers, he reminds us, "are important to pollination." Watch out for bees crawling over the stamens and this time of year Monarch butterflies wafting in for a Bambi moment.

Anyone in a drought stricken place such as Los Angeles has to make peace with the hydration roses require. I use grey water whenever possible. According to Mr. Perkins, water roses in full sun so the plant has time to dry before sunset. Avoid evening or late afternoon, as moisture will cause mildew on the leaves.

Let's not underestimate the aromatherapy aspect, the delicate sweet smell of fresh roses. The aroma changes over the day. Make a bouquet. Grab a bunch or lavender and/or rosemary. Rub it in your hands and inhale deeply. Boil up some of the rose hips for a delightful pink colored nutritious tea. I like mine with a sprig of mint.

Roses first appeared on our planet 35 million years ago. They have been an important symbol in many cultures' mythologies. By helping them to thrive we keep ourselves and this tradition growing strong.

Stay tuned and attuned. As always, none of what is discussed here should be construed as advice or therapy. Mostly it is a way to know how I think; churning and turning ideas. My interest lies in what happens at the crossroads of thought, emotions and action.