Posted by: Kara Luker | May 22, 2018

Purposeful pruning

The home we rent has a garden in the side yard consisting of nearly 40 rose bushes. When we first lived here, the landlord would come on occasion to grace them with her green thumb, giving them a deep pruning, a dose of fertilizer and a good soak. For whatever reason, that hasn’t happened in a few years. Either she is less attached to the garden than I thought or she is unaware of my ineptitude with living things.

It’s not that I don’t try. I’ve done a modest pruning now and again when they start looking like beanstalks reaching the heavens, but the fear of their blood on my hands has kept me from attempting anything further. With the neglect showing more each month, however, a potentially botched attempt began to seem wiser than none at all.

Being clueless on the topic, I took to YouTube to learn how to do a proper pruning. The most helpful video I found was of an older, frontier-ish guy who seemed too manly to be fussing with roses but who struck me as knowledgeable and trustworthy. He explained that the best approach is also the simplest: figure out what belongs and cut the rest away. What belongs, apparently, are a handful of stalks (stems? branches?) that form the shape of a vase, leaving space in the middle for the plant to breathe and do its thing. This will keep disease at bay and cause life and health to break forth (he may not have used that exact language), along with plenty of blooms… which is really the purpose of a rose bush.


When I set about to do this (far too late in the season, mind you), I found that most of the plants were an endlessly tangled mess of thorny branches bound by vines that had planted themselves beside the roses’ roots. A daunting task indeed. But as I began to trim things back and get a better view, I caught a vision for what belonged and was propelled forward until nothing remained but a short, skeletal frame and a large pile of discarded branches. Because of my newfound understanding, though, I no longer felt like a murderer of beautiful things, but a sculptor helping them become what they were meant to be.

It took many hours over many days (and countless wounds from their fearsome thorns) to prune them all, but it turned out to be a wildly enjoyable task and the results were restful to my eyes and surprisingly beautiful (in a minimalistic sort of way). After fertilizing, watering, mulching and weeding, I held my breath for a couple weeks.

You can imagine my great relief when the bush I pruned first and the most mercilessly (I honestly thought I might have killed it) showed signs of life with a few new leaves… and then newly formed branches covered with bountiful leaves… and now buds that are going to burst forth in no time at all. I have so much to learn, but am fairly confident that the rest of the bushes will follow suit.

But of course there was a bigger takeaway. God is so faithful to prune us – not because he is ruthless or careless with our lives, even though that’s what it feels like at times, but because He loves us. He knows that if He fails to pare down our lives to the heart of what belongs – with great skill at the appropriate time – the neglect will eventually show and not only keep us from thriving, but from fulfilling our purpose. I’ll probably share soon what this has looked like in my life, but in the meantime, I pray that we can all rest in the hands of our masterful Gardener who is artfully caring for us so that we will be able to bloom like crazy, for His glory.

P.S. I really wish I would have taken pictures of this process, but didn’t since I thought I would probably destroy them. Next time…


  1. […] I finally made the effort to prune the rose bushes at our rental home, I had certainly like having roses, but they belonged to my landlord – not […]

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