The riddle of the rhododendrons

Rhodies BeforeThe rhododendron’s stalks were thick as a strongman’s arm and the bark shed its skin in flakes. The purple flowers that bloomed were quite beautiful, but so few of them grew. Above it, a cedar tree spread his branches about. The rhody didn’t grow tall; it didn’t intertwine into the branches of the cedar as a blackberry bramble would. For ten years, the rhody branches tumbled down and up again, overgrown without care.

A mother stood in front of them, admiring the dense stalks. Her job was to prune the rhody down, but she couldn’t see where to start. All she could see was wild beauty. Her perspective was cloudy so she moved behind the bush. The cedar branches brushed her hair and so, with the shears she limbed up the tree. Finally, she could stand in the space and turned back to the rhodys.

She did not like what she saw.

First, she cut away the leafless and gray branches because they were easy to spot. Next, she cut away the obnoxious ones that grew between others. Wanting to see how it had changed, she stood in front of the bushes again. It was easier to see the branches; where they were coming from and where they were going. She had a tough job ahead of her. She had to prune the stalks that were still alive at the end but dead at its base. Those were the hardest to cut because she wanted them to grow. She stopped what she was doing and headed inside.Rhodies During

The wife asked her husband, should she cut them or should she not. She asked her neighbor, should she cut them or should she not. One person advised her to wait; enjoy the few flowers until the end of summer. Another advised her to cut the branches down, they are dead after all. What to do, what to do, what should the mother do? Enjoy the last of the flowers for the season or cut it all down and focus on regrowth. She thought. Day and night, she thought. Showy for the season or energy for regrowth. It dug into her, the branches twisted into her dreams. It carried the question to her soul. She couldn’t finish pruning the rhody because she just didn’t know.

Without an answer still, she watched her daughter at play. At that very moment, a solution to the riddle of the rhodies appeared. Rhodies AfterWhat advice would she give her daughter, what would she teach her to do? Would the mother tell her to hold on to dead roots? No. She wouldn’t teach that lesson at all. She would want her daughter to look at things for what they really are, not to be fooled by greenery and show. The next day, she headed outside. The flowers are pretty, but they matter little, when the stem is dead. Away with the branches, it’s down to the quick. Summer will pass and new shoots will grow tall, sooner than you think.



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  1. Great lesson, they do say, “Out with the old, and in with the new”!! It’s going to be beautiful next year!

    • Thanks Lisa! Out with old and in with the new, exactly!

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