remembering and pruning
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.