Ever-Blooming Despite Life’s Prickles: The Japanese Beetle

A Japanese Beetle enjoys the petals of a rose.

The Lesson of The Japanese Beetle

I usually putter amongst my small but flourishing rose garden monitoring and pruning away the dried branches, weeds, and spent blossoms. One particular summer though, my attention focused elsewhere as I failed to keep a careful watch over my beloved buds. In my goings to and fro, I noticed one or two Japanese Beetles enjoying the fruits of my labor as they nestled on my bud’s petals and her leaves. Unfortunately, I was too consumed in my own world to pay attention to the destruction right beneath my nose! Over time, my rose bushes were devastated and apparently well known by the JB community as the all you can eat smorgasbord. Consequently, I realized that I needed to regularly monitor the activities lurking in my garden if I was going to ward off such damaging predators in the future. In fact, to do so, I filled my little Tupperware container with soapy water and went hunting! Time to enforce my garden’s much needed boundaries! Beetle-hunting is quite easy actually and surprisingly fun. All you have to do is look closely at your rose buds, find your enemy lurking underneath, then tap the branch and catch them as they land in the soapy water. Once you’ve trapped these pesky pests, you’ll experience a strange sense of relief as you watch the enemy drown. Clearly, my burgeoning buds must be examined should I hope to rescue them from the evil anxious to devour them. Interestingly enough, though one bush may be purified, the nightmare could still show up yet again in another unsuspecting bush.

​As I set out to continuously conquer such small but damaging insects, I thought how similar sin is in our own lives. Often sin starts off quite small and unnoticeable as we go about our busy lives. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it surfaces enough to nearly ruin our lives and once it’s done so, it proceeds to affect those around us also.

“Let us look closely at our ways and examine them and then return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40.

​The Japanese Beetle teaches me to daily and carefully examine the garden of my heart so as to seek out and destroy any pests hiding within my budding soul for it is only then those around me will smell the sweet aroma of my lifestyle as my form of a daily sacrifice (Numbers 28).

Ever-Blooming Roses Despite Life’s Prickles: Summer Storms

‘Oregold’, a yellow hybrid tea rose, is pounded by heavy rains.

Summer Storms

After an unexpected summer storm struck my rose garden, I reflect on the weighted canes drooping with defeat. The once glorious petals litter the ground crying out for vindication. Though not entirely destroyed, each bush whines in the aftermath as they obviously would have preferred a slow steady rain than a fast and furious gusty storm. Given some time, I’m confident such defeated canes will overcome the unexpected afternoon flash. Although they can’t appreciate the drenching rains now, the hot boiling sun will soon stir thanksgiving as they draw on the well saturated roots beneath the steaming heat.​

The long canes of ‘Fourth of July’, a climbing rose, succumb to the pounding rains.

Just as our roses can experience an unpredicted and drowning storm, we too are taken by surprise when Abba Father allows fast and furious storms, like betrayal, abuse, lay-offs, cancer, or death to brew in our garden of life. Upon such devastation, we often whine in their aftermath, “Why me?” or “This isn’t fair, God!” But what if instead, we could raise our canes in praise and say, “I don’t know what You are doing, God, but I trust You!” What if despite such heartache, we could cling to the words of Isaiah 26:3-4, “With perfect peace you will protect those whose minds cannot be changed, because they trust you. Trust in the LORD forever, for in Yah, the LORD is everlasting strength.” Other translations say the “Rock of eternity”.

Sometimes I bravely praise my “Rock” in such storms while other times, I’d rather hide under a rock in my anxiety. I may even look for temporary relief of such unexpected sorrow by hiding in my isolated, secret garden. But during such harrowing times, I am tenderly reminded, “I alone am the one who comforts you. Why, then, are you afraid of mortals, who must die, of humans, who are like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12). Whatever tragedy you face, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11 or 46:10 in the Christian Bible). After all, our God, our Creator, our Aleph and Tav, knows our beginning and our end and every purpose in between. Breathe in the smell after a saturating storm and choose to trust that God’s still got this.

‘Oregold’, a hybrid tea, brightly blooms with Paul’s Scarlett Climber glowing in the background.

Ever-Blooming Roses Despite Life’s Prickles: Prickles and Predators

A grasshopper avoids this rose’s fierce prickles!

Prickles and Predators

Did you know what we commonly refer to as thorns on rose bushes are botanically speaking actually prickles? Thorns run deep within the sap of a branch whereas on a rose, the prickle is just along the surface of the rose’s bark and can be snapped off. Nevertheless, the purpose of the prickle is to protect the rose from predators. Various animals including rabbits, deer, and even horses would find roses a delicious snack if it weren’t for protective prickles. The piercing prickles also protect the plant from caterpillars and other insects that would welcome the climb up with a leafy treat as its reward. ​

“…God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.” 2 Chronicles 32:31

As a young woman, I discovered evil can sometimes manifest in the likes of wile handsome devils looking to devour your heart, or more accurately stated, your undergarments. After I found myself divorced, sexual temptations only grew worse within my wanton heart. Feeling defeated emotionally, physically, and most definitely spiritually, I decided I needed to stop “playing the harlot” and get it together! Lo and behold, if a so-called angel of light didn’t come across my path just in time to save me from my new found resolve. You guessed it! A gorgeous man pursued me like no other despite my repeated refusals. In one of my rejections, I explained my commitment to work on an important area neglected in my life… my soul! Shortly thereafter, in yet another persistent attempt to win a date, the devil-in-disguise craftily confessed he was in a Bible study earlier that morning. With this tid-bit of knowledge, my young naïve heart perked up questioning my harsh judgments against his sexy self. Needless to say, when you combine good looks and God talk, with promises to take care of me, I was SOLD! Wish I could say it was a dream come true, but with all the drama this guy brought, I needed Triple A to help me deal with his Triple A’s: Addictions, Affairs, and Abuse! You see, had I been strong in my relationship with Abba Father, bound and guarded with His truth (Proverbs 3), or prickles meant to protect, I would have seen that predator coming! The latter verses of Deuteronomy 12 into Chapter 13 warn that God will test us to see if we will choose Him and His Torah or choose to follow other false gods, false messiahs, or people in error. Instead, I found myself picking and choosing which of God’s boundaries I was going to hop on over like fornication or mingling with false people rather than binding God’s instructions to me to help me remember His Torah, which is His Voice, His Word, His Way, His Truth. I failed to realize as people commissioned to be the light, that the light is living God’s Torah, a set-apart lifestyle.

​”For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life…” Proverbs 6:23

The truth is, beloved, spiritual captivity often leads to some form of physical captivity. Just read the accounts of the wicked kings reigning over the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and their outcomes found in the Hebrew Bible to verify. Or, you could erroneously have weak boundaries and consequently rebel against God’s boundaries while falling in lust with addicted, abusive, player type of men like I foolishly did and you too will glean this wisdom soon enough.

​If rose bushes aren’t covered in prickles, they would be devoured by all sorts of pestilence and predators. Likewise, do yourself a favor, get rooted in God’s Word and grow some prickles for you too will be tested!

“Dream Come True”, a grandiflora rose.

Ever-Blooming Despite Life’s Prickles: The Bud Union

The Bud Union

Near the base of a rose bush you may discover what’s known in rose parlance as the “bud union”. The bud union is a marriage of two different roses for the purpose of providing a hardier and more stable bush. Typically, a bud union can be found on a hybrid tea or floribunda variation plant.

Commercial rose breeders mass produce root stock in their fields and then later graft in another rose variant to create the hybrid tea, for example. Most root stock in the USA is known as “Dr. Huey”, which if left to grow, produces a maroon colored rose. Dr. Huey is a climbing bush with much strength and aggression. Think of it as a rose bush on steroids! Assuming the graft is successful, a bud union will solidify and the intended design will eventually flourish. Consequently, many roses in our gardens today have a Dr. Huey lurking beneath. Frequently, Dr. Huey will present a “sucker”, or random cane emerging from the soil but not connected to the bud union base. Such a random cane is known as a sucker because it will suck much needed nutrients from the intended plant. If left to grow, the sucker’s canes, leaves, and blooms will be noticeably different than the rest of the intended bush. Also, if you experience a harsh winter and your bush consequently perishes, Dr. Huey, or whatever root stock that was used to design the plant, may emerge from the depths.

​Just like all people have pros and cons, both grafted and own-root roses have pros and cons. A further disadvantage to purchasing a grafted rose bush is the fact that some may be infected with the Rose Mosaic Virus, which is different than the Rose Rosette Disease. If the root stock is diseased, it will only be a matter of time before the virus destroys the entire plant. A plant may actually perform rather well for a season or two, but the Rose Mosaic Virus is systematic as it works through every crevice of such a union. Before purchasing a new rose bush, look for a certified virus free one!​

“And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26

As a single woman, particularly in my roaring twenties, I settled for what you may label an “unbeliever” in a bud union of our own. But like an infected rose bush, our marriage only thrived a season or two. It would seem my stable and hardy Dr. Huey was more like an aggressive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

​God commissioned Israel, who eventually became known as the Jewish people, to be the light to the world (see Leviticus 25:55; Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:3,6). Additionally, the Israelites, or Jewish people, were instructed, warned, and reprimanded by God for forming romantic relationships with those not of Israel (see Numbers 25, 36; Deuteronomy 7:1-11; Nehemiah 13; Ezra 9-10, as a few examples). Perhaps Abba Father knows it is hard enough to cultivate a healthy, lasting, loving marriage without the added difficulties of differing cultures and faith.

​Or, to put it another way, just like there is clean and unclean meat, there are clean and unclean men or clean and unclean relationships. I know as single women we sometimes feel like we are sojourning along a wearisome wilderness wanting companionship, marriage, and babies. The temptation to settle for someone outside of our faith, whatever faith that may be, lures our easily deceived hearts. May we be careful not to forget or forsake our devotion to the One True God exchanging our eternal relationship for other lovers (Hosea 2-3). Should we intentionally forsake Him and His will for us, we may be purchasing a virus infected plant rather than looking for the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit as evidence in our “certified virus free” mate! Daughter, beware! Should YOU operate outside of God’s instructions regarding a “bud union” of your own grafting, you may end up being the “sucker”.

To learn more about the Rose Mosaic Virus and the Rose Rosette Disease, click here.

“Love and Peace”, a hybrid tea rose.

Travels With Roses

After selling our sailboat we lived on for a couple of years in Texas, I gave away many of my plants, but some are traveling with us as we sojourn to Maryland. My back seats are folded down so I could bring two potted rose bushes (significantly pruned to fit), some herbs, succulents, a watering can, my Felco pruners, synthetic oil just in case and some clothes and cleaning stuff too. The rest of our belongings have been shipped. Meanwhile, due to COVID19, I’ve been disinfecting each hotel room’s remote, light switches, door knobs, etc and watering my plants at rest stops. Free puppy pads are underneath the plants so they don’t drain on/in the car.

Just like you don’t leave your pets behind when you move, you don’t leave behind your plants either…especially roses!

Wild West and Unruly Roses

While living in Texas, a friend granted me permission to nurse his plethora of neglected roses overcome by the Houston area’s heat and humidity in Zone 9. His commercial event-venue site, intentionally designed to look like a scene from the wild west with it’s saloon, antique store front, equipped with a functioning old-wooden windmill and railroad track, is a small business with big property and numerous garden beds that needed nurturing attention. Historically operated and maintained by family members, seasons had changed and grown children moved on creating a void in the property’s landscaping maintenance. Thankfully, our friend happens to know a rose-fanatic such as yours truly to lasso up such wild, overgrown, prickly canes and force them to reach their potential of proficient blooms once more.

Over three Sundays this past February, my husband and I tackled the encroaching and overcrowded rose canes. While clearing away debris around one of the roses base, I felt like an archaeologist upon discovering a buried and partially worn off label confirming these roses are ‘Double Knock Outs’ from Chamblee’s Roses in Tyler, Texas, a famous and large rose nursery several hours away. Knock Out roses are a popular, typically disease resistant shrub sold at nearly every box home improvement store and nursery throughout America. Consequently, hot pink and ruby red blooms flourish in the beds of shopping centers, medical office parks, and numerous homes throughout the Country. While ‘disease-resistant’ is a wonderful trait to market and buy into, it should not be confused for ‘disease-proof’ meaning many roses succumb to some form of disease if they are not nurtured at least on occasion as the appropriate season requires.

Planted like row homes in a crowded city, these shrubs were planted far too close to one another, a common error of the previous owner. Additionally, the beds have not been weeded and the shrubs had not been pruned in years possibly ever by the looks of them. Albeit, Knock Out shrubs are usually far more forgiving, but this is hot and humid Texas just southeast of Houston, so both the master gardner and the roses must be prepared for regular attention and robust abuse of the elements. Upon careful inspection of the various shrubs’ canes, I noticed a white-green film smothering it as well as hints of furry spikes. How bizarre and challenging! I had never seen such growth on rose canes before, but I could tell this was not the usual suspects such as powdery mildew, boytritus, or scale, as some examples of more common rose diseases. Additionally, I noticed many of the canes were hanging on fighting for their lives while others had succumb to canker and ultimate rotting death. Moreover, I was intrigued by this peculiar unknown-to-me growth and the quest to overcome it!

Thankfully, we live in an age where anything one could ever want to know can be found on the internet. After typing in a few words attempting to describe the white-gray growth on the canes of these roses as well as the bark of a nearby tree, I was able to diagnose my botanical dilemma. Lichens, pronounced likens (LIKE-ENS), are a combination of both fungi and algae stimulating and propelling one another in their growth, similar to marriage. The other soft spikes of gray launching from the canes and branches are known as ‘Ball Moss’. Neither lichens or ball moss is particularly harmful, but rather a symptom of possibly a lack of air circulation, poor soil nutrition, as well as too much moisture such as high humidity combined with sprinkler usage. Consequently, I significantly pruned all the rose shrubs throughout the sprawling property and had my husband dig up the dead bushes or the one’s clearly on their death garden-bed. In the meantime, a paid worker weeded the beds. I experimented by spraying the canes with neem oil on the mild Texas days of February to ward of the spider mites (another symptom of neglected and diseased roses) and hopefully rebuff the lichens. I hand picked much of the ball moss off the canes as that particular moss easily comes off, but the gray-white-greenish layer of lichens refused to be evicted.

Within weeks of pruning, the roses blossomed once more in hues of hot pink. Evidence of lichens still lingered somewhat, but better soil nutrition as well as much better air circulation after pruning should thwart future growth. Regardless, these roses appear to be ‘ever-blooming’.

It’s A ‘Miracle Grow for Roses’!

I tried ‘Miracle Grow for Roses’ fertilizer for the first time recently. My mini-roses are producing more than they ever did before! This particular fertilizer provides 18-24-16! Yes, this is a floating garden @ my sailboat. Soon we are moving from Texas to Maryland to be near family. We are shipping our personal items while putting the roses in the car with us as we relocate north. For me, these are my priorities #relationships #roses #religion .

If you are curious about these ‘miraculous’ blooms, this is what the fertilizer looks like. You just mix it with water in a watering can and follow directions with how much and how often. I used regular generic brand potting soil with some purchased bagged garden compost.

Happy Gardening! May we continue to be ‘Ever-Blooming’…

Be Ever-Blooming: Encourage & Educate

Recently, I was at a friend’s house who had climbing #roses that weren’t doing well and had no buds or blooms. I explained to my friends that #climbing roses don’t climb on their own like a vine does; rather, you as the #gardener have to train them by bending and forcing the new soft canes horizontal, which will produce fresh shoots. I wove in the branches to be horizontal within their trellis and pruned some unhealthy sections. About a week or more later, I returned to find one small bud starting to #bloom! I house sit for them soon so I’m hoping by the time they return most if not all their #roses will be #blooming with just a little tender loving care. It’s rewarding seeing struggling roses overcome and blossom…All they (and we) need sometimes is a little #encouragement and educational tips. Why not encourage someone today? And don’t forget to #encourage and #educate yourself as well. Be ever-blooming! 🌹🌞

Ever-Blooming On A Boat

With fair winds and sunny skies, my roses are ever-blooming creating quite the “BOATanical” experience. As liveaboards choosing to live full-time on our sailboat, we wanted to live “tiny” on the water. However, anyone who has followed my blog, knows I adore roses so naturally, I had to acquire a few since relocating to Texas – boat or no boat. ‘Full Sail’, a Hybrid Tea, consistently produces large and incredibly fragrant white blooms and she barely has any prickles (thorns) and is snugly positioned at the bow of our sailboat thanks to some creative uses of bungee chords. After owning numerous roses over the years, I must say, ‘Full Sail’ has gotten my full attention as she blows me away with her healthy, abundant, and delightfully fragrant blooms that fill our salon with scents of honeysuckle or citrus.

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‘Full Sail’ blooms at the bow of our sailboat.

Another charming rose I’ve recently acquired is ‘Arizona’, a Grandiflora. She was a “body bag” rose I purchased on the cheap from Walmart. Although ‘Arizona’ has recently started producing a lovely show of orange blooms with edges of pink, her leaves have succumbed to powdery mildew. I suspect because she was originally positioned in a container under my bimini (awning shading the cockpit of the boat), perhaps she didn’t get enough sunlight and air circulation, which seems surprising consider how much wind reaches even in that somewhat sheltered area. Most likely, since it is shaded from some of the sun, ‘Arizona’ probably could not shake the mildew built up for the rays of the sun normally dry any moisture gathering on the leaves. One thing I’ve learned is gardening on a boat presents it’s various challenges, but it is possible and I welcome the challenge. Of course, I may be singing a different tune once faced with the Houston area’s extreme heat and humidity with little wind come the summer months (or so I’m told). This bright colored Grandiflora now is perched in a container on the deck of the boat embracing much sunshine and breezy days. Overall, I’m confident ‘Arizona’, a very prickly. but evidently a delicate rose, will bounce back after some organic treatment of baking soda and water. To learn how to treat powdery mildew, check out a previous post here. While I usually also like to use neem oil, I could not find it in the stores here till most recently so I tried rosemary essential oil instead, which was something I had on hand. The rosemary oil did effectively kill the rapidly growing fungus, as my online research foretold, but seemed to also burn the leaves even more than neem oil can. I probably failed to dilute the essential oil enough with water in addition to experiencing a plethora of sunshine after applying the treatment. Organic treatment using neem oil and evidently rosemary oil can burn the leaves on particularly sunny days – it’s best to treat the leaves on cloudy, low heat days, or so I was reminded in this BOATanical lesson.  Thankfully, roses usually are most forgiving and she seems to be producing more dark green foliage once again. Moreover, I love the way ‘Arizona’ glows against the blue boom (the device attached to the mast that contains the main sail when not in use).

Overall, I am not surprisingly thoroughly enjoying this ever-blooming “BOATanical” garden and look forward to many more blooms and challenges. As I scribe this post, my husband and I have relocated the roses to shelter them on the floor of our cockpit since the winds are gusting at around 35 mph tonight. It’s always interesting dwelling on a boat – especially with roses! 😉 Follow along our Ever-Blooming Roses blog and Facebook page to learn more about our developing boatanical garden.

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‘Arizona’, a Grandiflora rose.

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‘Arizona’, a Grandiflora rose.

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‘Arizona’, a Grandiflora rose.