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When Rich and I met, I was living in cute three-bedroom house in Sherwood, Oregon with a yard full of flowering bushes, spring bulbs, ornamental grasses, creeping pyracantha, and a giant rose bush, Cecile Brunner, locate in the far corner of my front yard. Once it took root, Cecile Brunner grew profusely, needing to be aggressively trimmed every year to prevent it from cascading over the sidewalk.

Year later, when we moved to Kirkland, Washington, I purchased another Cecile Brunner to commemorate our anniversary. This plant, however, wasn’t particularly healthy. I kept it in a pot, which probably contributed to its lack of vigor. Nevertheless, it finally took off, growing two or three branches, which were four to five feet in length.

In the fall, not wanting thorny rose branches stretched across the deck, Rich wielded a pair of clippers. I was devastated, believing Cecile Brunner represented our relationship, and by cutting off the branches Rich was dampening our lives together. Adding to my belief, the bush barely grew the next year.

It was a death row rose. Death row rose 4

Disappointed, I brought it to our Mount Vernon house, sticking it in the ground, and placing little faith in its survival.

I placed the same faith in the roses we transplanted from my mother’s house. She always had dozens of rose bushes. When we lived in Tarzana, California (San Fernando Valley), she’d purchase experimental roses from Jackson & Perkins. They were identified by a number on a metal tag. Occasionally, she’d learn that one of the roses was given a formal name and released to the public. One of these was French Lace, which was bred from R. Dr. A. J. Verhage and Bridal Pink™.

When she moved to Sherwood, Oregon, she dedicated the front of her house to roses and bulbs. She prided herself on keeping them trimmed, but as the years passed, they were neglected, and incorrectly pruned by numerous gardeners who haphazardly hacked off the branches. In addition, because the gardeners “raked” out the weeds, the front year turned into a mish-mash of straggly rose bushes, rampant sedum ground cover, bloomed-out bulbs, swatches of miscellaneous, unkempt plants, and bare soil.

After she moved out of her house, we tidied the yard, laid bark dust, and hoped the tenant had an interest in gardening. She didn’t, and two years later, implored us to remove the rose bushes and plant grass.

DNA to Thrive

In December, we showed up with boots, shovels, clippers, and tarps. We crudely trimmed and dug out the roses. Some we had to leave because their roots were intertwined with those of a large maple tree, which the tenant wanted cut down because of the amount of leaves it dropped in the fall.Death row rose.5

Sliding in the mud, with rain pouring down, we dug out over a dozen full-sized roses, and around two dozen miniature roses. The latter, my mother had probably purchased from grocery stores, and plunked in the ground after they bloomed.

We had to wait a week to plant the roses, which were in horrific shape with large, gnarled bud unions (at the bottom of the main stem), hacked off branches, and ripped up roots. Like Cecile Brunner after Rich had chopped off the branches, they were essentially death row roses with little probability of surviving.

Cecile Brunner2With jaded optimism, we planted the roses against the back fence of our Mount Vernon house, heavily fertilized them, trimmed out unnecessary and dead branches, and waited. As the weather warmed, little petioles started to appear on the bare branches. By spring, most of the roses – including the miniatures – were showing positive growth. In May, to my surprise, they started to bloom.

Like Cecile Brunner, once placed in the ground, and given nutrients, they thrived. Today, Cecile Brunner has grown up our two-story deck, and annually rewarding us with sprays of petite pink roses. I suspect the other death row roses will continue to flourish.

Reawakening Like a Rose

Cecile BrunnerWhen faced with challenges and setbacks it’s easy to throw your hands in the air, and give-up. It’s human nature. We want to continue to move forward in our job, relationships, quality of life, and reaching our goals. When we’re deterred, it hard not to feel defeated.

However, like a struggling rose, we have the potential to once again bloom, given time, persistence, and nourishment. Sometimes, we need to temporarily lean on others to help pick us up, draw our attention to other opportunities or point us in a different direction.

Often, it take longer than expected to bounce back. But, if we recognize the power of revitalization, then we can start to realize the possibilities, growing, blossoming, and reaching new heights.

… yes, the photos are of Cecile Brunner, and the blooms are from several of the rose bushes from my mother’s house.