Do not be afraid

by Christine Berglund

There is a terrifying threat of horticultural calamity that has local gardeners living in constant and serious dread.

We hesitate to breathe the name because of the doom it portends. We call it RRD, short for the cursed “Rose Rosette Disease” that strikes terror into the hearts of rose growers. It is a death sentence to an infected rose bush. There is no cure.

Originally introduced by Iowa State University to combat the proliferation of the pest plant Multiflora Rose, it has now escaped into cultivated varieties. The popular Knockout Rose is highly susceptible to the disease, spread by mites. Once the plant is infected, RRD spreads quickly, even to the roots.

There is a wall of these gorgeous beauties along my front walk, covered with bright red double blooms. It’s a constant delight throughout the season.

This spring, however, I was alarmed to find a cluster of very red, very spindly new stems with distorted leaves on one of the plants, smack dab in the middle of this row of nine bushes.

This pattern is what gives Rose Rosette Disease the nickname “Witch’s Broom.” I snapped a photo, shared it with some experts, and then, with a heart as painfully curled and distorted as my rose’s leaves, I dolefully concluded that RRD had struck.

I couldn’t bear to see a hole in this hedge of 7-foot tall shrubs, so I took the cowardly way out. The entire branch was removed, but not the plant.

Then the waiting began, and the watching. Every new piece of growth caused a quickening of my pulse as I held my breath to inspect it.

Meanwhile, RRD was spreading. More reports surfaced and more anguished garden friends were removing their beloved plants. Fear had gripped our gardening community as family heirloom plants were lost to the ravages of Witch’s Broom. Some gardeners did as I did, taking out only the suspicious canes; others took a safer route and removed and burned the whole plant, root and all.

Fear will make different people react differently. Only time will tell if I took the right approach.

In our lives, God does not want us to be fearful, but to have faith.

While I have to admit I am concerned, I am not as distraught about my roses as it may appear. After all, they will all be burned up along with this world. It is a temporary, beautiful, but sometimes scary place to live until we reach our eternal destination.

The truth is that there are scarier things going on all around me that I am much more concerned about, and I struggle not to be fearful. I am a natural worrier, although I know deep down that worry defies all logic.

The friend with cancer, the young couple with marital problems, the little girl with a brain tumor; these are the things that keep me up at night, not my roses. I worry about my family, with the usual “Mom type” fears. You know them.

The good news is that God tells us not to be fearful, and he tells us how to do it.

“Casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NASB).

A fearful, worrying spirit is not following this command!

I don’t yet know the fate of my Double Knockout Roses. Whatever happens to my roses, I will still tend my garden. Whatever happens in our lives, will we still trust our Father?

“Do not be afraid, little flock; for the Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

“I ain’t skeered.” Are you?

Share your thoughts: