Thistles, Thorns, and Now Thrips?
Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.
Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.
“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to the nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison..” Isaiah 42:6-7
As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject Him or merely believe in God but don’t live according to His instructions, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to obey God and His Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.
In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!
An Aphid Attack
Spring, in all its glory, has a marvelous way of resurrecting my spirit. A spirit that seemingly had lost all hope in the blustery cold winter months. The hints of life burgeoning in my garden stirs renewed hope and energy within my aching bones. How exciting to see new canes sprawling out as if stretching from an oppressing winter! The new red leaves bursting in color declare, “I’m alive just waiting to bestow glorious blooms!”
Irritatingly deceptive are the tiny green aphids that blend in perfectly as they cover an unsuspecting rose bud and other areas of the plant. Technically, aphids may appear in your garden as an assortment of colors such as black, brown, red, or even white. Aphids attack worldwide and their different species are in the thousands! Aphids arrive in the Spring, but can reemerge anytime during rose season seeking out the sap within your rose plant. They tend to cover the rose bud or hide under the plant’s foliage. Aphids can even transmit disease to your other roses. Thus far, every Spring when I look closely at my buds anxious for them to bloom, I am horrified to see a cluster of life sucking creatures curling the leaves around her, smothering her, and doing their best to prevent her from blooming!
Thankfully, there are a few ways to resolve an aphid attack. One such option is to remove them by picking them off and squishing them although this method is quite tedious considering how many aphids typically plague a rose bush at any given time. Another much faster option would be to take a hose with a nozzle and blast off the aphids. This method won’t damage your roses and provides a quick, but temporary solution. Perhaps the best option is to develop an inviting host environment as previously discussed. Various herbs like dill, parsley, and mustard and flowers such as butterfly weed, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace and golden rod will attract ladybugs. Ladybugs thoroughly enjoy a tasty aphid and can devour the colony of pests in no time. You could also purchase ladybugs through an online source and release them into your garden. Follow the directions if you choose this option and understand most of the ladybugs will fly off but some will stay and enjoy the aphid buffet. Considering how aphids will seek out to destroy your burgeoning buds every Spring and into the Summer months, wisdom says to start establishing a welcoming host environment for the good bugs to permanently move in.
“And now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; moreover, I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.” Exodus 3:9
An aphid attack on glorious roses reminds me of the affliction of the people of Israel, also known as the ancient Israelites and today known as the Jewish people. It seems quite unfair to notice and delight in a flourishing bud, such as God’s chosen people, only to have them smothered by pest likened to antisemitism!
Nevertheless, the Hebrew Bible repeatedly both warns and encourages the Israelites, whether natural born or grafted-in such as Caleb (Numbers 13:6, 14:24, Joshua 14:13-14/Genesis 15:19) and Ruth (Ruth 1:2,8-18), both grafted-in Jews, for example, to not fret and to even expect affliction, but in the end, God will literally save the Jewish people, collective Israel scattered throughout the world raising them to be victorious (see Isaiah 30, 41-42, 49, 53-56, 60; Ezekiel 34-37; Joel 3; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 8-12 as a few examples).
“Even though you planned evil against me, Elohim (God) planned good to come out of it.” Genesis 50:20
Furthermore, suppose the oppressed rose bud was crying out to you, the master gardener, to rescue her from such bondage. She was unable to free herself of the smothering aphids but her gardener could. What if we learned to cry out to our Abba Father, our Master Gardener, rather than try to fight off the aphids ourselves or worse, choose helplessness and hopelessness by giving in to slavery, depression, or fear. Surely, He hears our cries (see Exodus 2:23 and 3:9). Sometimes though, for the greater good and for the bigger picture that we cannot comprehend, it may feel like God, our Abba, has abandoned us so we cry out like the Israelites did, which David penned about them stating, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (see Psalm 22:1). But ultimately, they were rescued from the oppression of Egypt. We see from the Psalm in verse 5, “To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” David also encourages Israel and future readers, to understand the blessings coming to those who trust in the LORD when he scribes, “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” David further encourages the often oppressed and afflicted Israel while prophesizing about future world stating,
“You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, honor Him, and fear Him, all the seed of Israel. For He has neither despised nor abhorred the cry of the poor, neither has He hidden His countenance from him; and when he cried out to Him, He hearkened. The humble shall eat and be sated; they shall praise the Lord, those who seek him; your hearts shall live forever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall prostrate themselves before You. For the kingship is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations..” Psalm 22:24-29
The point, sweet sister, is even though Israel or the Jewish people collectively and possibly those who align with them, may be heavily afflicted throughout the centuries, ultimately, God is grooming and preparing a world to come full of victorious overcomers! Whether you need to tediously hand pick those aphids right off of you, blast them off in one clean swoop, develop an environment full of ministering angels, or better yet, cry out to your Master Gardener, then just do it! I’m here to remind you, beloved daughter of God: He hears you. In His strength and His time, you can overcome the attacks of pestilence!
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5
Once a rose has bloomed, its goal is to reproduce. To accomplish such a task, the blossom extinguishes its petals, and if pollinated by a bee, bird, or human, it will eventually transform into a rose hip. The rose hip is essentially a pod of rose seeds fulfilling the plant’s purpose of being fruitful and multiplying. However, if the gardener snips away the spent bloom, also known as “deadheading”, then the plant redirects its energy to produce yet more blooms. Various rose bushes, such as the floribunda variant, tend to produce multiple clusters of glorious blooms. Should one rose blossom and fade yet still is left amongst the plethora of other blooms, the spent bloom demands energy that could otherwise be redirected towards the remaining blooms in the cluster. Alternatively, the gardener could simply snip the spent rose so the energy is redirected to the remaining thriving buds or blooms. On a hybrid tea variant, the gardener could potentially remove all the budding blooms while leaving only one to flourish. The remaining bud will then produce a larger and more beautiful rose than if it was left to compete with the other burgeoning buds.
“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” Psalm 119:2
As I have evolved in my Biblical studies and come into understanding more and more of God’s holy word, I realized I have been exposed to and believed in many fallacies over the years. Ultimately, after grieving such popular deception, I opted to “deadhead” those spent blooms so my energy could be redirected to produce healthier and more spiritually accurate, full blooms. In doing so, I learned to alter and prioritize in my life what is important according to God’s word instead of what some may teach or assume is truth. I ultimately carefully examined my heart, my mind, my lifestyle, then accordingly, repented, and redirected myself to love the Lord with all of my purged heart, mind, and being to the best of my ability. I realized the more I come to know Abba Father and His word, the more I realize I know nothing at all!
“With my whole heart I have sought You!” Psalm 119:10
Moreover, I found myself relating to David’s many psalms, particularly Psalm 119 as he embraced God’s instructions instead of rejecting them. David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), goes on to scribe in verse 34 of Psalm 119, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
In time, I discovered the secret to producing a beautiful spiritual garden while being fruitful and multiplying isn’t necessarily producing multiple seeds or nourishing a plethora of blooms unknowingly propagating lies and error; rather, when we become aware and are willing to deadhead all the unnecessary deceptions and distractions, redirecting our energy on meditating on Abba Father and His Word while keeping His commandments, we then find ourselves ever-blooming, despite life’s prickles.
Weeding the Weeds
Where a glorious rose bloom, a gregarious weed burgeons! A rose garden would not be complete without its share of weeds anxious to suck the life out of sprawling, flourishing canes. All rosarians accept the tedious reality that weeds will inevitably compete with their darling rose bushes. With a variety of means to thwart such attacks, the gardener must carefully select the most advantageous yet scrupulous methods for in doing so may cause greater harm than good. Commercialized weed killer sold in franchised home improvement stores worldwide could seriously hamper, if not utterly, destroy a rose bush. Instead, many gardeners choose to place rolls of landscape paper down or newspaper with layers of mulch or wood chips on top to prevent weeds. Some choose gravel while others prefer getting on their knees and either individually hand plucking the weeds or using a hoe to do their dirty work. Regardless of the gardener’s preferred method of defense, every rosarian knows there will be annoying weeds, which must be prepared for and appropriately addressed.
Upon entering my mid-thirties, I decided to use my experiences to help other hurting women by founding a non-profit faith-based domestic violence ministry. Although most welcomed a rare jewel of a ministry, I found myself ill prepared for the weeds that would pop up attempting to choke out my flourishing ministry. Naturally, or perhaps supernaturally, I expected some obstacles and negativity, but was rather surprised by spoken word curses spewed from select family, friends, and even those of faith. Much of the negative responses spawned primarily from ignorance and fear. After all, domestic violence is sadly a taboo subject within the faith community. Although, thankfully, many are diligently working to break such traumatic and oppressive barriers to cultivate healthy, thriving households.
Meanwhile, I suspect other negative responses were stirred from jealously and competition. Isn’t it sad when ministries, people of faith, or families strive to compete with one another or oppress one another instead of embrace and support each another? How we respond to one another’s strengths and weaknesses as well as all life presents reveals the burgeoning weeds taking root or lack thereof in our hearts and homes.
“Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.” Genesis 50:20
Consider the Biblical character, Joseph, and how his family could not appreciate his gift of having prophetic dreams and being able to interpret such peculiar dreams. Instead, the weeds of jealousy developed in the hearts and minds of Joseph’s siblings attempting to choke out his gifts from God. For many years, it appeared their negativity indeed hampered Joseph’s God-appointed gifts, but God merely allowed all of the adversity and affliction Joseph encountered to cultivate a greater good for not just Joseph, but his family, Israel, and all of the surrounding nations including Egypt all the while indeed manifesting Joseph’s earlier prophetic dreams. Even more revealing was the gracious response Joseph had for the brothers who betrayed him.
As you embark on something special whether it may be a career move, adding a new member to the family through marriage or adoption, going back to school, writing a book, or going into ministry or simply walking along your custom God path, be prepared for various weeds to sprawl up and out intended to trip you or hamper your growth as you evolve into the person God intended. Like any gardener, you may need to be creative in how you protect yourself from invasive weeds that manifest in others or even how to best uproot weeds manifesting within you as God cultivates new blooms in your garden. Create appropriate barriers to remove them from your garden of life and recall what others perhaps meant for harm, God uses for greater growth!
The Bud Union
Near the base of a rose bush you may discover what’s known in rose parlance as the “bud union”. The bud union is a marriage of two different roses for the purpose of providing a hardier and more stable bush. Typically, a bud union can be found on a hybrid tea or floribunda variation plant.
Commercial rose breeders mass produce root stock in their fields and then later graft in another rose variant to create the hybrid tea, for example. Most root stock in the USA is known as “Dr. Huey”, which if left to grow, produces a maroon colored rose. Dr. Huey is a climbing bush with much strength and aggression. Think of it as a rose bush on steroids! Assuming the graft is successful, a bud union will solidify and the intended design will eventually flourish. Consequently, many roses in our gardens today have a Dr. Huey lurking beneath. Frequently, Dr. Huey will present a “sucker”, or random cane emerging from the soil but not connected to the bud union base. Such a random cane is known as a sucker because it will suck much needed nutrients from the intended plant. If left to grow, the sucker’s canes, leaves, and blooms will be noticeably different than the rest of the intended bush. Also, if you experience a harsh winter and your bush consequently perishes, Dr. Huey, or whatever root stock that was used to design the plant, may emerge from the depths.
Just like all people have pros and cons, both grafted and own-root roses have pros and cons. A further disadvantage to purchasing a grafted rose bush is the fact that some may be infected with the Rose Mosaic Virus, which is different than the Rose Rosette Disease. If the root stock is diseased, it will only be a matter of time before the virus destroys the entire plant. A plant may actually perform rather well for a season or two, but the Rose Mosaic Virus is systematic as it works through every crevice of such a union. Before purchasing a new rose bush, look for a certified virus free one!
“And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26
As a single woman, particularly in my roaring twenties, I settled for what you may label an “unbeliever” in a bud union of our own. But like an infected rose bush, our marriage only thrived a season or two. It would seem my stable and hardy Dr. Huey was more like an aggressive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
God commissioned Israel, who eventually became known as the Jewish people, to be the light to the world (see Leviticus 25:55; Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:3,6). Additionally, the Israelites, or Jewish people, were instructed, warned, and reprimanded by God for forming romantic relationships with those not of Israel (see Numbers 25, 36; Deuteronomy 7:1-11; Nehemiah 13; Ezra 9-10, as a few examples). Perhaps Abba Father knows it is hard enough to cultivate a healthy, lasting, loving marriage without the added difficulties of differing cultures and faith.
Or, to put it another way, just like there is clean and unclean meat, there are clean and unclean men or clean and unclean relationships. I know as single women we sometimes feel like we are sojourning along a wearisome wilderness wanting companionship, marriage, and babies. The temptation to settle for someone outside of our faith, whatever faith that may be, lures our easily deceived hearts. May we be careful not to forget or forsake our devotion to the One True God exchanging our eternal relationship for other lovers (Hosea 2-3). Should we intentionally forsake Him and His will for us, we may be purchasing a virus infected plant rather than looking for the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit as evidence in our “certified virus free” mate! Daughter, beware! Should YOU operate outside of God’s instructions regarding a “bud union” of your own grafting, you may end up being the “sucker”.
May you and yours be “ever-blooming”!