Rites of Spring Birds and Roses by Rambling Rose

Sitting in my garden enjoying the sunny day gives me a sense of contentment and one of pure panic. HELP! look at all that needs to be done. How will I ever manage?!

Making a mental list, from which I will stray, I start with cleaning the nesting boxes. Yes, that is an important chore for my garden. I have 14 species that are in and around, all year long. Several species of drop-ins and several permanent lodgers. The birds help control insects and are a welcome addition. Just as the bats earn their keep so do the common swifts that have been nesting under my eaves for 19 years. When I moved in they had pushed away the screening under the soffits and were snuggled on the insulation.

Not wanting other critters to come into the attic I made a birdhouse and placed it in the same place as the air vents. It screws on and I drop the floor out each year so new bedding can be added. I love watching them bring in grass and feathers and watching the fledglings learn to fly. My other birdhouses are home-made with hooks that latch to the floor. This make the job easy. .

Now on to the plant stuff. Pruning roses is on my list for today. Many fine articles on this are available, my advice is to have sharp secateurs-style shears - anvil styles crush the stem or branch. I always cut at the 45-degree angle too. Cut out old dead wood first, it’s grayish and gnarly. Cut out newer thin canes and keep only 3 to 5 healthy strong looking canes. Trim to a height you want and cut out branches that overlap and open up the inside. This means cutting away branches that grow inward.

Roses are very strong and forgiving. I've even cut back my climbers to about a foot off the ground. You lose one year’s bloom, but boy, do they come back! I am a follower of Penelope Hobhouse, a great English gardener. She says, "Sometimes you have to be brutal." The bush is invigorated or perhaps nervous about a future trim, at any rate they appreciate it.

Raking up old leaves under roses is important because insects and fungi spores there over winter. I have a child-sized small broom rake that works great!

Happy Spring!