I’m not, under any circumstances, a gardener. I’m comfortable knowing my talents lie elsewhere. But I do a good job of faking it; I listen to people who know how these things work, and I’ve picked up a list of tricks that have suited me well over the years. I’ve learned there are two types of plants: Perennials and annuals. Perennials are your friends: prepare the ground, stick them in good dirt, and leave them alone to do the rest — which they will do, year after blessed year. For lazy gardeners like me, they are the perfect answer to an otherwise barren yard. That’s my kind of plant. Annuals, on the other hand, are those bright, beautiful blooms that herald summer and cut bouquets. But they only last — as you might surmise — for a season. They don’t come back. And let us be clear: I’m all about minimum effort, maximum rewards.
But I also know I love flower gardens; I simply suck at maintaining them. So I picked up another tip from my green-thumbed friends: planters. Planters are fantastic, because it’s really a simple equation for success. Ceramic pot + drainage + MiracleGro + annuals + water = riots of summer color. It takes a bit more effort up front, but it’s also limited to a specific number of planters. In a weekend I can create a floral getaway where I can escape and recharge over the entire summer, and that’s very definitely a maximum return.
Of course, things can happen to upset the apple cart. This summer I was gone more than I was home, and my critical mistake was not specifically reminding TheCop that plants need water. To be fair, it’s one of those things I didn’t really think needed saying; one would think he’d notice the colors had gone from green to brown. But I managed to notice the deck of death once I got back. I confess, there might have been words. Bitchy, irritated words. I know I’m a lazy creature, but I believe in the tacit agreement my plants and I have: dirt, pot, water, and I reap the benefits of letting flowers do their thing, as long as I occasionally water them. This was definitely dropping the ball on my end, and the flowers’ accusingly withered in silent protest. Ironically, that night we had a torrential rain, as if the universe was saying, “Well if no one else is going to…”.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later, and I’m once again sitting out on my deck, lost in the fog of my own thoughts, mindlessly looked at the struggling flowers. I had given them some quick aid when I first got back, but I hadn’t really taken care of them properly, and it showed. So I dug out my pruning shears and started the not insignificant job of deadheading my abandoned plants. Deadheading, as any of my green-thumb friends will tell you, is the trick to having flowers bloom all summer long. Spent blooms tell a plant that the job of growing has come to a close; but remove the spent blooms, and plants automatically channel their energy back into growth mode. Regular deadheading directs the plant’s energy into stronger growth and more flowers. Without it, the plant goes into seed mode, at the expense of further growth or flower development.
As with many things, it’s easy to do a little bit of deadheading at a time, but I’d really let these plants go. Normally I just pinch off the blooms, but now there was pruning to be done as well. There were entire stems that had died off and needed to be removed; other plants had straggly offshoots that needed to be cut back. I used to hate this part; cutting off living pieces just because they stuck out funny seemed wrong to me somehow. I’m still not sure I’ve got the art of pruning down right, but I do know it’s important whether you’re speaking about flowers, bushes, or even trees. Many problems may be prevented by pruning during development early on. As I’ve said before, I’m a lazy person: I’m all about taking care of the problem up front when it’s relatively small, so one doesn’t have to deal with a bigger mess down the road.
I think it was cutting my finger on my own shears that did me in. Having time off at home with no plan can lead your mind to wandering down paths where you don’t really want to travel, and it has been a long couple of days. But the sight of bright red blood, my struggling flowers, and the fog of memories suddenly made me realize I had done my own pruning a long time ago. I had made a difficult decision to excise some of the unhealthy parts of my life. It wasn’t without pain, and it wasn’t without uncertainty that I was even doing the right thing. But the system rebooted and, incredibly, I grew and blossomed. I put down roots. I added a family. And again, when I recognized a very real need, I pruned once more to keep the planter healthy and strong. Did I do it right? Did I cut off enough? Was I too aggressive with my pruning? There’s no real way to tell what might have been. There’s only looking at the here and now and what is. And what is real in the here and now is this: the planter that represents my life has many different plants in it, and it is a riot of color and beauty. It is more than I could have ever hoped to have attained on my own and, more importantly, it is healthy and gloriously alive. As you might imagine, I’ve had some time to think about this and, in the end, here’s the thing: I don’t regret my actions as much as I regret that they were necessary. So be it.
It took me an hour to deadhead my tiny deck, and those flowers still look kind of pathetic. But I’m not worried. I give it a couple of weeks and I know with some loving care and feeding, they’ll be back on their feet once again, in a rebellious return to living.
As will I.