The Rose Bush: Parables From the Rose Garden
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my mom and dad working in the garden. My mom loved to garden, she helped my dad in the vegetable garden but was an artist in her flower garden. She didn’t just plant flowers and watch them grow, she was an artist and the plants and bushes were her paint and the meticulously cultivated soil was the canvas.
She would accent the flowers with attractive landscaping rocks and used rose bushes as a back drop on one part of the garden and three huge Lilac bushes in the northeast corner of the garden. The beautiful colors of the garden bloomed all summer long as each flower plant was planted strategically so there were always several flowers blooming in all its majestic splendor.
Every winter my mom would plan her garden. Keeping in mind, the rose bushes and perennials she would decide how to fill in the gaps where the annuals would go. She would see in her mind what the garden would look like and work to achieve her vision.
Additionally, she liked to experiment in her garden. She would spend many hours in the winter and early spring going through seed catalogs deciding what kinds of flowers she would like to add to the garden. Every few years she would add a tree or two. She always seemed to want to experiment with nut trees. She never seemed to have much luck with the nut trees but she planted some beautiful flowering ornamental trees.
Even her occasional failures with the nut trees would have a happy conclusion.
One year one of the nut trees that she planted started to die sometime in early summer. She did all that she could do, to try and revive the tree making more than one trip to the nursery for information on products to use to salvage the tree. She pruned, trimmed and fertilized that poor black almond, all to no avail.
The tree gave up the struggle and died in the late fall. The air was getting chilly so my parents decided to cut it down in the spring.
With my moms inclination to try new things . . . Somehow the topic came up of cutting the tree down and use it for our Christmas tree. That black almond tree was only a few years old and wasn’t very large. My mom had a vision for that non-traditional Christmas tree.
Now the air was down right freezing, but my dear old dad cut down the black almond and flocked the tree in the spirit of trying something new, we didn’t know if the flock would stick to branches but it did. After stringing small clear lights and ornaments on the tree, it turned out to be the best Christmas tree we ever had. It was unique and natural and created an ambience that we didn’t expect, but certainly enjoyed.
One year she decided to create a small vineyard with two types of grapes. A seedless green type of grape for eating and a red variety of grape for grape juice. Dad built a fair size Arbor for the grapes to go on. This project lasted several years because of time grapes need to mature and produce fruit.
Considering our climate, the grape project was relatively successful, more so for the juicing grapes than the eating grapes. When the grape project was fully mature, they managed to get about twelve quarts of red grape juice. Because there were so few jars of grape juice they were reserved for special occasions. One such special occasion was New Year’s eve. We would mix Sprite with the grape juice to add a little fizz and stretch the grape juice. To this day I’ve never tasted a better grape juice than the juice my mom’s vineyard produced.
For some reason my mom stopped the grape project and had my dad tear down the Arbor. This grape project took a lot of garden space. My mom decided that she would create a rose garden in that space.
This time the Rose Garden project stayed. That rose garden stayed there until after my father died and was still there when my mom sold the family home.
My mom always enjoyed decorating family graves with roses from her garden. She got very proficient at raising these roses and keeping them pruned so they were continually flowering all summer long.
My mom was a master gardener, not by any formal training although she read a book or two here and there. She gained her skill and knowledge by experience and through countless hours working in her garden. It was also a God given talent for her.
The years went by and my parents got old were not able to keep up with the size of the garden they had. Our family house sat on a plot of ground about 1/3 of an acre.
By now I was moved out of the house married and had a child or two. My dad was in failing health and unable to work in the garden at all. I would frequently get called to go help my mom in the garden by pulling weeds, moving rocks, planting a tree or cutting down a tree and all the other stuff she relied on my dad to do.
I would spend many Saturday mornings pulling weeds and helping around the garden. But as often as I could, I would talk my dad into going fishing on Saturday mornings, both because I love to fish with my dad and to get out of pulling weeds. I never have liked the necessary part of gardening.
It didn’t take much talking to get my dad to go fishing. We had a perfect spot on the river where it was easy for him to access. By the time we got back it was too hot to work in the garden is so we would have to put it off for another week. My mom didn’t get too mad because my dad was having fun fishing but the weeds would keep growing.
Slowly but surely I talked my mom into adding a linear foot of grass to the garden every year or two because it was easier to mow grass than pull weeds. She did not like the idea, but she conceded to the necessity of it. Growing older slows one down in garden work. However, by the time she sold the house the garden was only reduce by a third which wasn’t much considering how large the garden was.
Like I said, the rosebushes were an important part of the garden and keep in mind that she also had a part of the garden which was nothing but roses. Thinking back on it, I would guess that she had thirty-five or forty rosebushes throughout her garden.
Over time she started to modify her garden so that it would require less work and upkeep by letting her perennials grow larger taking more room and growing grass at my urging.
Then came perhaps the saddest point in her life as far as the garden goes when she couldn’t keep up with all of the roses. She asked me to trim the roses one spring Saturday. She was having to give up her dear child, the roses, to me. I was willing to do it but I didn’t know how. I knew how to use the pruning shears by cutting back other bushes in the garden but I knew there was a trick to pruning the roses.
I asked my mom “how do I trim the roses?” Her reply was just to cut them down a little bit and to cut off all the dead wood from the winter. Ordinarily those instructions might’ve been enough, but I knew my mom, and I knew if I didn’t do it right the first time that I would have to go out and do it again and again and again until I got right. I learned early on to get very explicit instructions so that I would do the various jobs to her satisfaction the first time, saving me a lot of aggravation.
I asked my mom again how do I trim the roses but I was more specific and said how many inches down should I cut the stems? She responded “use your best judgment.” Since I wasn’t getting any where with the detailed instructions I wanted, I went out to the Rose Garden and started trimming.
The rosebushes were about three to four feet tall and very thick. I experimented with the first Rosebush by cutting back all the dead stems. I also knew enough about gardening to realize that these bushes needed to be thinned out a little so the sun light could get into the middle of the bush. By the time I got done with the first Rosebush, it stood about four inches off the ground with about five or six stems coming from the base of the bush. Oops.
Never before had I done a job in the garden that didn’t require at least two tries. In her particular eyes there was always a little more that could be done to get it right. After contemplating this situation of a stubby, ugly rose bush I decided that the best thing would be to make all the other rosebushes look the same. I’m not sure why I thought that, but that’s what I did.
After cleaning up all the debris I took a deep breath I called my mom out of the house to look at the completed job. Mom came out at the back door and down the stairs onto the patio. She looked at the rosebushes and in confusion or disbelief, she walked on the grass getting closer to the Rosebush garden. I wasn’t sure what to think of that, but there wasn’t anything I could do now. And with some relief, I was glad that I was an adult and married and not able to be grounded. She got a little closer and then exclaimed with exasperation “oh Troy, what have you done to my rose garden?”
Hoping that I could persuasively make sense of it all in my explanation I said “I did what you told me to do, I use my best judgment.” That statement helped, but not to the extent that I had hoped for. She went on to say “don’t you know any better than that?” Easily I replied, “no, I don’t. You never taught me how to prune roses.”
I was surprised that the next thing she said was “well, let’s hope they grow back.”
That’s not the end of the story of the rosebushes. A few months later I and my family were visiting my mom and dad and having a barbecue on the patio in the backyard. I looked at the Rosebush garden and was stunned by the vibrant growth that had occurred to every Rose bush. Not only had they grown tall, really tall, but the Rose Garden was a sea of variegated beautiful rose colors with blossoms and buds in an endless array of coloration.
As we were eating our dinner on the picnic table my mom said to me what do you think of the rosebushes? This is the best year I’ve had in the Rose Garden. I admitted that I was surprised they survived by trimming incident. They were gorgeous.
There is a moral to the story, as a result of the accidental but drastic trimming, the rosebushes performed better than ever fulfilling the measure of their creation.
The application of the story is that we can grow from the adversity that we face. Sometimes we have trials and tribulations that are like a skilled gardener expertly trimming the roses just right and like the rosebushes turning out bright and beautiful we can turn out better and more fulfilled than we otherwise would have.
I was not skilled at trimming roses. What I did to those roses was nothing short of a life altering event in each of the rosebushes lives. Yet, with my mother’s tender loving care to those rosebushes by properly fertilizing and watering them, they overcame that life altering event that I caused them and they became better, bigger and more beautiful than they ever had been before.
Sometimes the trials and tribulations that we will go through are deliberate and under the control of a loving, caring Creator. Other times we go through trials and tribulations as a consequence of our behavior.
Yet, at other times we go through trials and tribulations through no fault of our own, like drastic pruning. Sometimes these trials can be life altering events, but with the tender loving care of our merciful Heavenly Father we can become taller, bigger, brighter and more beautiful than ever before.
Let us not be afraid of being pruned by a master gardener or even cut back dramatically by reckless acts of mortality, in the end, with The Saviors help, we will truly blossom in all the glory possible.