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“Pruning In March,” A Poem By Vita Sackville West

There is an old saying that the time to prune the roses is when the forsythia blooms. Here in my Midwestern garden our forsythia blooms in March.

pruning in march2-edit

Photo: by Lotte Grønkjær

Forsythia preparing to bloom.

Vita Sackville West was a British writer as well as an accomplished gardener. Here is her poem “Pruning in March.”

Malapert March is parent to all these,
The sowing- time, when warmth begins to creep
Into the soil, as he who handles earth,
With his bare hand well knows, and, stooping feels
The sun on his bare nape, and as he kneels
On pad of sacking knows the stir of birth…..

So does the good gardener sense propitious time
And sows when seeds may grow
In the warm soil that follows on the rime
And on the breaking frost and on the snow.

And then in safety shall he prune
The rose with slicing knife above the bud
Slanting and clean; and soon
See the small vigour of the canted shoots
Strike outwards in their search for light and air,
Lifted above the dung about their roots,
Lifted above the mud.
Yet, unlike fashion’s votary, beware
Of pruning so that but the stumps remain,
Miserly inches for the little gain
Of larger flowers, exhibitions boast.

There is an old saying that the time to prune the roses is when the forsythia blooms. Here in my Midwestern garden our forsythia blooms in March, providing a helpful reminder that it is time to remove the dead wood on the rose bushes.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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