After their first big flush of blooms at the end of April, my David Austin roses developed a bad case of black spot.
Black spot is a fungal disease, and as the name implies, it causes dark spots on the leaves on rose bushes. It tends to thrive in rainy conditions along with cool, damp nights. Which pretty much describes the whole month of May in my neck of the woods.
Black spot isn’t something you can ignore and hope that it goes away. Because besides the fact that it looks unsightly, left untreated, black spot can seriously weaken and threaten the health of the entire rose plant.
The problem is that once black spot gets started, it’s hard to get rid of. The first thing you have to do once a plant shows signs of disease is remove the infected leaves and prune the canes that show signs of infection. Anti-fungal sprays help slow the visible progression of the disease – I have been alternating between Neem oil and a liquid copper fungicide.
Since spores (or seeds) of the fungus can live in the soil and then spread and reinfect the plant in the future, I have also been using systemic rose care granules. This kind of treatment goes one step further and works internally in the plant to actually help prevent black spot from forming in the first place.
It’s been almost six weeks now since I started actively treating my roses and I have been so relieved to see the healthy new leaves sprouting.
But this doesn’t mean that this struggle is over – I’m still removing infected leaves on a regular basis. So I have to stay vigilant in my fight against black spot or else I will wind up right back where I started.
A few nights ago I was doing some pruning and clean up on my roses. The events of week were weighing heavily on my mind and my heart, and I was trying to process all of the information and opinions coming at me from the news and social media. Racism, white privilege, systemic oppression…these aren’t the kinds of things I typically ponder while working in the garden. But being on my knees in the garden has always been the place where I do some of my best soul work, so I spent some time in prayer asking myself some hard questions about my own biases and prejudice.
Most days I still have more questions than answers, but one thing I know for sure is that racism cannot be ignored and we cannot simply hope that it will go away. Racism is ugly and evil and threatens everything good about our society. We can do some things to address it in the short term, but for lasting change, racism has to be treated internally.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the shelves at Home Depot that we can buy to make this easier for us.
Ultimately, the only way to fight racism systemically is with LOVE.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Please don’t misunderstand me. This kind of love isn’t a touchy-feely, warm & fuzzy emotion. The kind of Love I am referring to is Agape or unconditional Love. The kind of divine Love that Saint Thomas Aquinas explained as actively “willing the good of another.”
Truly to love is to move outside of the black hole of one’s egotism, to resist the centripetal force that compels one to assume the attitude of self-protection. But this means that love is rightly described as a “theological virtue,” for it represents a participation in the love that God is.Bishop Robert Barron
With regard to racism, I believe that Love can be expressed in a multitude of ways. In my own walk though, I have found that Love has manifested itself in empathy and education – having a willingness to walk in a person of color’s shoes and being open to understanding racism and its roots.
So yeah, this looks good on paper. But it is a tall order. And I am leaning heavily on my faith in God and relying on His Grace to help me do the work that is mine to do.
Last night as I was inspecting my roses, I noticed a new bloom.
I almost cried I was so happy. All of the time and care and love I put into restoring the health of my roses paid off. And as I stood there and admired its blossom and inhaled its heavenly scent, this rose reminded me of what I was fighting for all along.
This rose gave me hope for the future.