Last week I discovered something about roses. They’re not as indestructible as their thick stalks and dangerous thorns might lead you to believe. Since moving to the South 11 years ago, my wife and I have been re-learning what we knew about gardening and landscaping. Many of our favorite plants don’t do well in the heat and humidity of North Carolina. We fought to get our tried and true plants to work, only to fail most of the time. I miss lilacs most of all.

When in Rome…

Over the years we have been learning what works, what doesn’t work. Holly plants do awesomely here, and require basically no care. We also found that Knockout roses are nearly indestructible. Nearly.

Knockout roses pushing through a fence
Knockout roses pushing through a wood fence.

We planted red Knockouts along the back edge of our deck, and on either side of the door to the potting cottage we built (A note for men: potting cottage is fancy talk for a shed), as well as elsewhere. They don’t ask to be watered or fertilized, which is good, since I don’t speak Rose. Despite devastating yearly attacks from Japanese beetles, brutal prunings, and general lack of care, they have grown, bloomed, and shared their beauty with us for years.

Roses in my backyard
The roses (formerly) seen from our deck.

I have loved their hearty growth and prolific flowers from Spring through late Autumn. They are incredibly “showy” (showy is fancy talk for colorful). I have regularly pruned and shaped them, and through time, we have become very well acquainted with each other. Little did I know they were harboring a scandalous secret.

Rose VD

Our roses started growing these dense, ugly bunches of feathery looking leaves. When pruning didn’t keep the ugly new growth from coming back, we dug a little deeper. Not in the soil, but with Google. The digging in the soil came later.

Rose rosettes
These growths are how you know you have rose rosette disease, or rather, your roses do. I refuse to speculate whether you have them or not.

Much to my paternal disappointment, it turns out our lovely, gentle, seemingly innocent rose bushes had been secretly entertaining the company of… shall we say, undesirable types? The kind of suitors your mother warned you about. The kind that acts all sweet and loving at first, until you let your defenses down, then you wake up one morning to find they gave you a virus then left you for a new conquest.


Yes, I am talking about mites, what did you think? An eriophyid mite, to be specific. The dreaded Phyllocoptes fructiphilus.

Eriophyid mite, which carries the rose rosette disease.
Evil looking little bugger isn’t he?

Erid (I call him Erid because I can’t pronounce eriophyid), can cause enough damage on his own, but when he carries the Rose Rosette virus, all rose bushes would be well advised to keep their leaves on, their branches tightly crossed, and to keep those ne’er do wells at limbs length at all costs.

Unfortunately, this disease is incurable and thanks to Erid, spreads rapidly. It is so serious that there is at least one website dedicated to it: Apparently it can wipe out whole regional populations of roses and devastate the rose growing industry. Sometimes, there is no gentle way to deal with a pervasive problem. In this case, there is no treatment except to destroy the bush, digging up all of its roots if you can.


Now, my sense of guilt never leaves me. I have used my own murderous hands to end the lives of my precious roses. No matter how I wash them, the stain never seems to come out. Although come to think about it, it could just be the blood flowing from 1000 thorn punctures. They died an honorable death and didn’t go down without a fight! Let us all bow our heads and take a moment of silence in their memory.

One of my rose bushes being dug up.
One of my rose bushes being dug up.

The places where my roses had been now seem barren and desolate. If I sit where I can wistfully look upon the hollow air where they once stood, it can even trigger my eye allergies. However, not all is lost.

By removing the roses, we have opened up space in our garden for new possibilities. Imagining and planning what we will do with the vacated ground has it’s own joy. We’re thinking about planting vegetables in raised planting beds at just the right height to feed the neighborhood deer without making them bend their little necks down. (This plan may need some refinement.)

Rose colored glasses

One of the most powerful things I have learned in life is that if you look hard enough, good can always be found, no matter how dead your roses are; or something like that.

I am applying what I have learned to my voice-over business. The ghosts of my roses have challenged me to look at how I am spending my time and figure out which activities bloom like flowers, and which reek of the stench of virulent disease. When I find the activities which are keeping me from doing the things I know I should be doing, like marketing and record keeping, I need to ruthlessly cut them out.

The usual suspects

If my business has a virus which threatens to kill it, it’s name is iphonibaccillus Internetico overyndulgicus (a fancy way of saying addiction to the internet, primarily via my iPhone).

Hi, my name is Jon, I am a ‘netoholic.

Every electronic device I have exerts some mystical malevolent ability to steal time from me. I don’t understand it, but when I pick up my phone to check emails, I get done, then realize an hour went by without me knowing. I was only checking emails, so what took so long? And what possessed me to just buy a 12 pack of bright orange socks from Amazon? If I open a web browser to virtuously research business leads, two hours later I find that I not only don’t have any new leads, but have a browser window open playing old YouTube clips from American Idol, another one playing funny cat videos, while yet another is open to a page called News of The Weird, which I had apparently been reading (did you know that NY city has created an official position of “Rat Czar”?). What cruel magic is this that steals away my time so stealthily?

The hard fact is, I don’t have nearly enough hours available to effectively work on VO and still have time for stupid things that don’t add any benefit to my life. The internet has become a disease to me, and I need to put an end to it getting in my way. Like my roses, I need to dig it out (or at least drastically reduce my interaction with it).

Open spaces

Now, if I did the math correctly, once the time wasters have diminished I will have more time available to get things done. Like blog writing, needlessly tweaking my website, catching up on episodes of Picard, organizing my fly box for the next time I go fishing, or thinking up strategies to win more consistently at solitaire. Well… maybe the internet isn’t the only distraction I have. One thing at a time.

Once I have available time in my schedule, I am determined to retrain myself to use it for the betterment of my business. If I even repurpose an hour a day, what colossal deeds might I accomplish? What about the little deeds which add up to colossal accomplishments over time?

How about you?

Does any of this resonate with you? Do you indulge in activities which distract you from doing what you know you should do, and would ultimately rather do? Things which behave like a virus, stealing your available time to grow your business? If so, I encourage you to root them out.

Then begin planting the seeds of new growth, which will bear good fruit.

Now excuse me as I go try to find a way to keep the deer out of our new elevated veg planters…


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6 Responses

  1. Love your sense of humor, Jon! I too have had to unhappily pull dead plants out of their pots, but due to December frost rather than nasty little buggers. I just planted my hydroponic garden with baby lettuces and veggies, so soon I’ll have to be on the lookout for their tormentors. And mine. They totally destroyed my crops last summer, so I totally feel your pain about your roses. They were gorgeous.

    My absolute time wasters? Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Fruitlessly trying to get my RETIRED husband to do something more than just play tennis. Like doing some of the aforementioned chores. Like I said, totally fruitless.

    • Thank you again for reading, Laura, as well as your kind comments. I love the idea of hydroponic gardening, although I have never tried it. I wouldn’t consider your “time wasters” as wastes of time; all being things that need to be done. I understand it would be nice to free up some time by getting some help, though.

  2. You have warmed the cockles of my garden-heart – love the metaphor. My biggest time waster? I wish I could say it was exercise – that’d be a plus, but like so many others, it’s social media…

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