It is time for me to go and get my hands bloodied – it is rose pruning time in my Lewes garden.

Yesterday my mind had scheduled for rose pruning because my climbers are now getting ready for their fourth year here in my small Lewes town garden which I started from scratch, yes, four years ago. I am determined to assert my authority on these wild and vigorous plants this year so that there is also a little bit of room for me in the garden too this summer.

So I set to work suitably gauntleted against the viciously sharp thorns with my favourite garden tool, secateurs. With climbing roses, it is a battle for supremacy between plant and gardener so we humans have to decide whether it is them or us.

I was pretty nasty and cut out all the weak stems, the dead wood and some of the healthy branches that just won’t listen when I tell them not to grow in the wrong direction. They took their revenge when I had to take off my gloves to tie the saved branches into their new position. No matter how hard I try, I always end up with hands far bloodier than Lady Macbeth’s.

Maybe I am a tad anal retentive but, heigh-ho, I do love the sight of all my climbers trained into obedience – it is all to do with making order out of chaos. They want to reach up to the sky but I want them to grow sideways so that the blooms cover the wall and fill the garden with perfume.

The other great thing about rose pruning time is that even though it is grey February, I  reminded that it will not be long before my Sussex flint walls will be covered with colourful and sweetly-smelling roses.  That is worth the shedding of a bit of blood.  This is what my roses looked like last year. I can smell them already – oh no, silly me, it is the disinfectant cream that I just smeared on my scratches.

Benjamin Britten

Mortimer Sackler


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