The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Lewis & Tara / Santa Monica



Monday, October 25, 2010 at 11:28AM

Admittedly, the last couple of times I trimmed Lew’s roses, the results were lacking. The blooms were sparse and haphazard. Needing a refresher course has its charms and challenges. First, admitting the need for improvement required I swallow my pride. “Back in the lesson line,” is what a client used to say to me. Remediation is the curse and blessing of a beginner’s mind.

The desire to maximize the number of roses for cutting and cultivation, by extending the blooming season, won out. Activating “enlightened self-interest” is a key to maintaining good mental health and relationships in the words of a mentor, Isaac Berman Ph.D. More blooms, more bees, more pollination, and more fruit. For me, fresh cut roses are so special and precious. Lew’s roses remind me of him and good times when we’re not together. They make such a colorful and fragrant addition to my kitchen.

As I read the Candelabra Roses blog post on pruning, it happened to be overcast and thundering. This lent a portentous mood and sound track to the enterprise. Only mid-fall and typically not the rainy season, this is one more sign L.A.’s weather is growing tropical in this age of global warming and climate change.

I began by looking for the five-spot and the rosy puce nib near its base at the branch in every leaf formation. The thought occurred, “What a great activity to do with a precocious kid.” I could have benefitted from a younger pair of eyes to look closely for the new growth and to help count out the five-spot with me.

To a child you might say, “Look for pink or red in the green. Find a baby flower in the making.” Remember, the three- and seven-spots won’t do. If the child is old enough, let him or her make the cut, or guide them along, your hand squeezing over theirs.

I don’t yet automatically see a pattern of five. In time I hope to. Lew says it’s like recognizing a five-point star rather than a six pointer. It can become second nature. Until then, I must fastidiously hunt for the five spot before making each cut. Adding intentionality to the mix, by not skipping over any part of the process, helped me to be deeply engaged in it. Who knows, rose bush pruning could be a behavioral intervention for attention-challenged children.

Snipping at an angle, slightly upwards and from behind, which I take to mean a subtle dip at the knees and turn of the body from knees to shoulder as one unit, makes the Candelabra Roses method a moving meditation. With these extra steps, the entire enterprise becomes engrossing. Moving along, I next took the, “no touching, no crossing” rule seriously. Sounds very kindergarten, no?

Again, it occurred to me what a wonderful opportunity for a child to help. The peril of thorns presents just enough danger to keep a child’s mind enthralled with the novelty of the action. Patience and care are qualities required by the endeavor, because a puncture wound while painful, is not life threatening.

The pleasure of discovery and adventure is inherent in a job well done. This increases exponentially with an interested child or other partner. Pruning roses correctly becomes a self-esteem boost. A sense of accomplishment is fed on a very basic yet profound level.

It has been three weeks since I started this blog post. In that time, the results of my efforts have paid off. Dozens of rosy puce nibs have formed into proto-roses. Some you see in the photo. There may even be roses for our Thanksgiving table! It’s delightful to squeeze one or two more bloom cycles of sweetness, out of the cold summer and rainy fall. Once again, the garden proves to be a wonderful crucible for making life more meaningful.

For 20 years Tara has been helping families in Los Angeles come out of the skid of separation and divorce, make sense of the blur they find themselves in and clear the path to a brighter future. Being with Lewis in his garden and involvement in the locavore movement is a blessing which helps her stay sane in the process. Tara blogs about families and relationships on the Huffington Post. You can learn more about her work at

Ways to support
urban farming
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