remembering and pruning


One of the things I treasure about gardening is that it gives me solitary thinking time.  Most blog posts start as thoughts when I'm gardening. Some of these ideas later get translated into actual written blog posts, and some just stay ideas.

The other day, immersed in some radical pruning activity,  I found myself remembering the garden that I lived in as a little girl. Although my parents were not wealthy, and the garden not very big or complicated, we always had a gardener.

As children, my parents both left Russia with their respective families after enduring the chaos of the 1917 Russian Revolution.  I don't think it ever occurred to my parents to attend to the garden themselves. Even after 30 years in Australia, to my parents only peasants gardened and grew things, and they did not regard themselves as peasants.

It never occurred to me to do any gardening either, but I did notice the shrubs and flowers, and I used to watch the gardener if I was home. I'm sure he understood plants, but he was brutal. The garden would just start to get a bit soft and pretty, and then he would come and chop everything back hard. I remember vaguely wondering why my parents asked him to come when the garden looked worse afterwards, but I never got round to asking them. If I had, I doubt we would have had a conversation about plant growth and the transience of beauty in the garden.



The reason I was having those old memories was that I was aware I was spoiling the soft look of the white geraniums that covered the fence and protected our privacy. The thing is, if you looked closely you could see that underneath the climbing plants was lots and lots of dead wood. This dead wood prevented the plants from growing down gracefully. And it had started growing out instead of down, with the added problem of obstructing the public footpath.

The plants growing over and through the fence are honeysuckle and white climbing geraniums. They have been there for at least 30 years. Some of the geraniums used to be pink, but over the years they gradually reverted to white. Later I added plumbago because the other climbers were growing above the fence, not in between the palings. If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have planted plumbago. It's too vigorous, and suckers madly all over the garden. But I did plant it, and it is not leaving, so we have learned to co-exist.



Using secateurs, I cut and I cut until the lovely old gnarled curvy trunks were revealed. A neighbour walking past remarked what a shame I was cutting off those lovely blooms. It was a shame in a way.

As gardeners what we do is often future-oriented, just like our gardener so many years ago. I'm sure the honeysuckle, geranium and plumbago will grow back again, and look better than ever.

I don't think I am generally good at training plants. It's not surprising. My children have grown up to be wonderful adults, but I was never very good at setting limits. Even my dog training abilities have been far from perfect. Plants in my garden seem to do their own thing. Except in this sort of situation. I'm in the driving seat, a woman with secateurs - on a mission.





Tomorrow is the last day of 2017. Wishing a very Happy New Year to my dear cyber friends.

Comments

  1. Haha, good story. I´m not good either in training and pruning plants. Come only into action
    when they have actually grown to a mess. The same about with my children and certainly my
    dog, I think I´m a softy.....
    Wish you a Healthy and Happy New Gardening Year!

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    1. thanks for comment, fellow softy.

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  2. I always struggle with the aesthetics of the pruning/grooming process in the garden too. My own ivy geraniums are badly in need of a good clean-up but, even knowing they'll be better off in the long run if I get to it, the interim ugly phase has me hesitating. Ditto with clumps of gray Santolina in need of a hard-core clipping. However, the gardeners who maintain my hedges never hesitate when they have electric shears in hand, which 2 weeks ago had them hacking up a large Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' (which they apparently mistook as hedge material) just as the plant's winter yellow bracts and cones were forming. Afterwards, I seriously considered whether I should fire the gardeners and manage my own hedges - but then nothing probably would ever get trimmed and I'd soon be living in a thicket...

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    1. Ugly phase is a good way of putting it. I think I just try to see into the future, the potential beauty. I never understand how some public gardens always looks so non-ugly.

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  3. Snap on the not good on training things. And I often leave pruning longer than I should.
    Garden time is amazingly restorative isn't it? For us, and hopefully the garden.
    Testosterone driven pruning is a scary thing though. I can remember my father pruning a camellia, saying it would flower better later. It did. Five years later. The intervening years it was flower free.

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    1. I am tempted to give them a short back and sides often because then it will be longer before they'll need anything done to them again. When I prune I do it with secateurs so it is a silent and hopefully relaxed process. Thought bubble: I wonder why it's called pruning?

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  4. Hello, catmint!
    I do remember when I'm pruning something I do this very hard, the plants don't look nice. Happy New Year, wish you good health and success in gardening! Glad you liked the Russian Christmas song.

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Nadezda.

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  5. I battle with training trees (yes, guilty, too big for our garden) to fit, and still look like a smaller and lighter version of themselves.

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  6. I didn't even know there was such a thing as ivy geraniums!

    I spend a lot of my time in the garden cutting stuff back; the majority of stuff is weedy plants that are growing where I don't want them and dead wood on the roses. Like your geraniums my prairie roses have a lot of dead wood underneath. What a pain, literally.

    That's kind of funny that your parents had a gardener who kept the garden from looking as pretty as it could.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi SB, I suppose once our gardens are reasonably established we spend more time pushing it back than filling it in. I think my parents' gardener must have been what Elephant's Child calls a testosterone pruner!

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  7. I think the more experienced you get as a gardener the harder you dare to prune....and an inexperienced gardener is often too scared to prune enough - not counting macho butchering landscape gardeners with power tools ;-)
    I feel more confident rejuvenating and hard pruning trees and bushes than I did in the past, but there are times when I ask Google for help with when to do it and how much to cut. And most things grow out again if you take too much!
    All the best for the new gardening year :-)

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Helene, I also feel more confident than I used to. It's still trial and error, but less so.

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  8. Happy New Year! I enjoyed this post. I have always thought of gardening as a wonderful hobby for even the most sophisticated person, and I was shocked when a good friend, from Taiwan, revealed that same attitude that only the lower class get their hands dirty in the garden! I am working hard to change her attitude! I particularly LOVE pruning!

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    1. I think people who think this must be afraid of the soil and see it as dangerous dirt. They also probably keep the insecticide industry profitable. Later in life my mother changed and tended to her garden herself, but it was kind of an extension of cleaning the house. It was a very neat (clean) garden.

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  9. Happy New Year Sue! I love pruning.Many people are scared of pruning. I often ask for the secateurs when I visit family. That scares them :-) They are afraid that their prized plants will never recover.

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    1. That's funny. I used to offer to help my elderly mother in law out with her small garden, but she never trusted me!

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  10. I can't afford a gardener. Guess I'm a peasant.

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    1. They never had much money. I think it just didn't occur to them to do it themselves. When I got a garden and started gardening at first my mother used to get very anxious that I would damage it if I cut things back. And once she saw an ant and said let's spray it!

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  11. I am so glad that I am also a peasant. Its a toss up as to whether its pruning or watering plants in pots that I am worst at.

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    1. I'm a peasant too. We're very lucky to be able to get our hands dirty, and have the most wonderful hobby in the world, aren't we? And the second best hobby - blogging about it!

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  12. Plants just want to grow... I love pruning!!!

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    1. simply and beautifully put, Stasher. I vastly prefer restricting growth to having to coax plants to grow.

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