How much eyesight does a rose gardener need?

nippstress - zone 5 NebraskaFebruary 4, 2013

Hi folks

This is a bit of a philosophical question that came up after a series of doctor's visits this week. We've had plenty of people showing how possible it is to keep rose gardening after physical limitations - Karl being a leader in that sense - but what about losing one's vision? A routine eye exam for me found a pigmentation pattern that suggested macular degeneration, or another equally progressive condition associated with having birds. Public service note - I never knew that living among caged birds and their debris could cause airborne particles that cause a fungus-like infection called histoplasmosis that deteriorates vision. Something to check if you have birds.

Anyway, further checking found that neither condition is likely for me (thank goodness), but I've now spent several weeks pondering how I would handle losing vision and what I'd miss the most. Nothing in life is guaranteed anyway, and it's a good chance to examine my own priorities. What I'd miss most by far is independence and seeing the people I care about, but I realized that ahead of most other work or living concerns came roses. I think I could enjoy roses without seeing them, presuming the allergy shots returns my nose to something like normal in appreciating them, but I don't know how competently I could grow them.

I'm sure I could garden with most perennials or vegetables without sight by training myself to feel for patterns of plantings that needed attention, and with a great deal of caution I think I could do some basic care of roses. However, particularly in a cold zone with a lot of unexpected cane death over the winter, I don't know how I would recognize the canker or dying canes or fungal diseases or other problems with the roses without seeing those patterns. So often we give advice to each other about rose gardening to "let the rose tell you what it wants", but I wonder how easy it would be to have the rose "tell" you if it couldn't "show" you. Much of the answer I'm sure revolves around how much vision one would have to work with, as well as the types of roses grown, but I'd be interested in your thoughts.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
predfern(z5 Chicago)

I found some resources on the internet for visually impaired gardeners.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardening and Horticulture for the Visually Impaired

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cynthia, I'm glad the doctors think you don't have that problem. That said, my BIL has had severe eye problems, detached retinas and surgeries since he was a teenager forty years ago, and is still doing ok. After cataract surgery he's seeing better than ever. I guess he refuses to worry, because he proceeds as if all will be well, although he does do a lot of travelling around the world in case he later can't see it. My husband also has had eye surgery but has been fine for at least ten years. So eye problems sometimes can take decades to get worse, and sometimes can be contained and managed. If you did lose your sight, maybe you could hire someone to prune. Eventually we all lose one capacity or another or all of them, so it makes some sense to be grateful for whatever we have today in ability and roses.

The thing is, even with pretty good eyesight a big problem can be not looking at things. Last year I was walking my dog in the morning, not looking where I was going and I looked down and heard a yelp. There was a great big copperhead snake curled up by the mailbox, and my dog had been bitten. He suffered a few days but recovered. I scan the ground where we're going a bit better than I used to. Copperheads blend in very well with fall leaves and sticks.
Great eyesight is no use if you're not using what you've got.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
buford(7 NE GA)

I was told by my eye doctor that I have risk factors for macular degeneration. Basically they can see fat deposits on the retina. But it's not bad, they just watch it. My mom has had several eye surgeries, so I'm sure that is in my future.

For me, the worst problem is not wearing my glasses when gardening (I usually wear just safety tinted glasses). So I have a hard time reading labels and such. And once I planted the wrong roses in the wrong holes.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mzstitch(Zone 7b South Carolina)

This is a subject I actually do worry about alot. Both of my parents had Macular Degeneration, each a different type, one wet the other dry. Mom was legally blind by the time she past away, and for the last year of her life it was depressing seeing her not be able to read or even see the tv screen. To me I just couldn't get past the fact she must be bored out of her skull when nobody is with her! Therefore I have regular eye exams, and I take a supplement recommended by my doctor basically vitamins for your eyes. You may want to discuss supplements with your own Doctor. I normally wear my glasses when gardening, and becaue of that the dirt scratched them so badly I needed a new pair this year and opted for no anti glare coating as that coating doesn't like dirt! I wear my glasses when gardening because like you said I need to see if anything is going wrong, like signs of blackspot! I dread having to give up my favorite things in life like rose gardening and quilting. They make me happy!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 4:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I understand.
Macular Degeneration runs in my family, too.
My grandmother who is 96, talks often about what she misses due to her eyesight.
It makes me feel so sad for her and I wonder if I will develop it.
She has eye injections and takes the supplements. That seems to help a little.
I wonder, too, about the boredom she must experience and is too proud to tell us.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

Thanks for all your insights and support and for sharing your own experiences. Mzstitch, buford, lsst, it sounds like you've already been pondering these issues for yourself and making positive steps toward being healthy. Thanks for the tip about the vitamins and ways to make glasses work in a garden setting, mzstitch. Another easy tracking idea for all of us, even if we're not at risk, is to post an Amsler Chart (these are free - just google that) and look at it daily. It's just a plain grid of lines, but it shows you what the distortions look like if there are signs of macular degeneration, and my doctors have said that's the best tool to help you recognize when treatment would be the most effective, rather than waiting till it gets bad.

Still, I find myself practicing flexibility in my attitude and breadth of gardening and other activities, for the same reason I practice flexibility physically - to lessen the impact of problems when they might come up. Predfern noted some great resources for gardening with limited or no vision, and it's a reminder that few things are impossible with limitations, it's just harder and has to be adapted to fit the situation. Like Erasmus noted among her family members, you find ways of working around problems and enjoying the small victories more when they're hard won.

One thing I didn't enjoy on that list of tips was to "avoid plants with thorny branches", since that's the vast majority of roses. That wouldn't mean I'd have to give them up, though- I think if I ran into that situation I'd gradually shift with my garden from the fussy-pants zone pushing roses I like to grow for the challenge and settle into no fuss shrubs and cane-hardy plants that would survive and thrive whether or not I was as capable. Shifting slightly in that direction as I get older helps me not dread any of the down sides that might come with regular or atypical aging - physical limitations, vision declines, health and stamina limitations. I have disabilities on both sides of my family, and I work in a field with children who have significant disabilities, and there are ways to adapt a wide variety of activities to be accessible - reading, travel, interaction, gardening, sewing (I presume also quilting), etc. The problem comes when it's not as effective or easy a strategy as we're used to, and we have to decide if we're going to keep doing the various activities when they're not up to our own standards. My grandmother in her 90's didn't want to use any of the tools her doctor recommended to help her read or play cards, and preferred to give up her bridge games that she loved rather than use the low vision cards because "they made her look old". That was of course her choice, but I'd rather enjoy the limited rose gardening, or reading, or cards or whatever I could do rather than give it up entirely.

I guess what I am gaining from this discussion is a resolve to not lock myself into being afraid of "can'ts" that I might worry about whether or not there's a specific risk, and start laying mental and logistic groundwork for how I "can" if I have to, for the things I've decided are important enough. I think having a flexible perspective is like exercise in that you can start at any age, but it gets harder as you get older, so I want to practice now. I COULD continue to rose garden (and interact with people and stay relatively independent) if I had decreasing vision or physical skills, though I'm going to spend my time appreciating what I can enjoy now as Erasmus said rather than worrying about anything I can't change. And the copperhead story is a great reminder to use the sight and skills I have now instead of taking them for granted. I've planted plenty of roses in the wrong holes because of inattention rather than any real excuse - why am I doing this if I don't stop and pay attention to the results?

Resolution for rose season 2013 - spend as much time pausing to appreciate the garden as I do pruning and deadheading. It's a daunting prospect, but hey - I wanted a challenge! Thanks again for your insights.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 4:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mzstitch(Zone 7b South Carolina)

Cynthia, Thank you for the Amsler Chart info, I wasn't aware they were available on line. Should have known! While your Grandmother just gave up on bridge my Mom was the opposite, and kept searching for ways to help her read. I can't imagine giving up the things I enjoy. You also reminded me to take the time to enjoy them even more. I intend to do just that this coming rose season, I can't wait for it to begin.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
buford(7 NE GA)

One thing everyone can do is wear eye protection in the garden. If you don't wear glasses, you should still get pair of safety glasses (you can get them in Home Depot for $10). I normally wear them, but I didn't have them on while I was cutting down some brush and was stuck in the eye by the point of a branch. Luckily it wasn't that bad. But it could be. And think of those rose thorns, if one of those was stuck in your eye, it could be bad.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 9:05AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
When a seller has the wrong picture, etc.
One rather large plant catalog with lots of pictures...
Fragrant drift roses.. Do they exist?
Stumbled upon some drift roses the other day and I...
Anyone grow Coretta Scott king?
I've always liked the look of this rose, but after...
SoFL Rose z10
Dying rose bushes? Can they be saved?
I bought a place 5 years ago with three rose bushes,...
Candy Stripe questions...
After nursing this band from Rogue Valley along since...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™