First Aid for a Broken Limb
by Lorraine Lipinski

Taken from Forest City Forum, July 1997, Scott Bailey, Editor
Reprinted in The Charleston Rose, May 1999

Each spring we all anxiously await that first bloom on each rose bush, checking them every day, watering, fertilizing, doting on them. But none receives so much attention as that new addition to the rose garden.

Such was my state of mind two springs ago. As I watched my latest addition throw out healthy canes, I wondered about its color, form, and size much like a parent awaiting a baby's first tooth. Finally a single bud appeared, growing larger every day.

One Sunday afternoon after mowing the lawn, I started my daily check of that rose. As I approached it I saw to my horror that the cane had been broken clean in half, my precious unopened bud dangling by a thread of skin. How could this happen? Did I inadvertently back into it with the lawn mower? Did a chipmunk climb up and break it with his weight? When did it happen?

In my disappointment, I recalled a childhood incident when one morning the neighborhood bully had whacked off my young corn plant growing near the alley, leaving the top third of it hanging by a thread of skin. With the faith of a child I ran to the medicine cabinet, grabbed the first aid adhesive tape, and taped the stalk back together with a very thick wrapping. The corn stalk kept growing uninterrupted.

Now as I looked down at my injured cane, I thought, "but that was a sturdy corn stalk. This is a delicate rose cane about to deliver its first bloom. " But it was worth a try. I wasn't giving up so easily, not after this cane had survived the rabbits and midge. I got masking tape and a Popsicle stick cut in half lengthwise to use as a double splint. First, I carefully placed the two broken cane ends together, matching up the break and taped them together, wrapping several thicknesses around. Next, I taped first one splint in place while supporting the upper broken cane section (not an easy task) and then the second splint on the opposite side and gave the whole operation one more good wrap for extra strength.

Needless to say, I checked that cane every two minutes that evening and at 7:30 a.m. the next morning before leaving for work. No sign of wilt yet, but the first full day would tell the tale. Arriving home after work I checked again and only then did I breathe a sign of relief.

In the days that followed the bud grew larger and never missed a beat producing a gorgeous bloom. After six weeks (the proper healing time for a bone), I removed the splint from the cane to see how it had healed. A round ball of scar tissue had formed at the break site about three times the width of the cane--Nature's way of assuring that part of the cane would never break again--also assuring that cane would never win any beauty contests! But what the heck--it was alive and still producing blooms, and it eventually became my favorite rose.

I have since tried mending other broken plants, some successful, some not. The length of time the broken ends are exposed to drying air or sun is a factor. Or, as in the case of tree limbs, the splintered ends need to be removed and two smooth surfaces bound together. But I never hesitate to try, whatever the circumstances.

A successful healing is truly rewarding.