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Pruning

Since I haven’t written in here for a year, and I assume I have a readership of zero, I feel oddly free saying this: I’m no longer capable of writing a chatty, informative blog about gardening. And I’m not going to.

The twists and turns a long, debilitating illness takes you through – they shave off the extra bits, in my case the part where I decided that a chatty informative tone would be the way I got my Garden Information out there. I no longer have the energy to maintain an extra personality that I manufactured in order to accomplish a special task. I’m not sure I have the desire any more, either.

Because part of that chatty informative extra personality was designed to hide my real agenda. Even though I hinted that my garden experiences are not entirely in the rational world, in the past I’ve been pretty shy of actually saying how that works for me.

Well, gardening is not entirely in the rational world for anybody, as every gardener knows who has FINALLY FIGURED OUT something – only to find that, next year, that that thing doesn’t work at all.

In my case, I’ve not only accepted that gardening doesn’t always make sense: I’ve courted the irrational aspect of gardening. I would say, “that unscientific aspect of gardening” – only science really does come into it. It’s just that some of it’s wacky science. Or cutting-edge, as some of us like to call it.

Or magic, as some of us have called it for years. Plants are an easy access to a power that goes way beyond the rational; that’s the way it was for the first people who needed to know which plants to use for medicine and food; that’s the way it has been for me since my first memory of meeting a plant.

I’m just coming out of the closet about it.

Even to myself. I was in the garden, looking at a rose bush that is very skinny and long, from having been in inadequate sun for too long. (I’m actually in the middle of moving it, but in my current state, that has to happen about ten feet at a time, on a good day, so its progress down the garden has been very stately.)

That rose bush had been moved to a spot in the garden where – finally—I could walk entirely around it, view it from every angle. I thought, “OK, this would be a good time to prune that rose. It’s dormant, it needs it, I can do it without any awkwardness.”

My next thought was: “I’d better go and look up how to prune roses again.”

And the thought that followed that? “Why do that when all I have to do is get in tune with the plant and ask it where to make the cuts?” I did, and I got directions.

But before I acted on them, I had a little moment of self-doubt: had I read the plant correctly?

So I compromised. I went inside, and I looked up pruning roses. And, as far as I could interpret the instructions as they applied to my spindly rose bush, they were giving the same advice as the rose bush itself. You cut just above a 5-leafed twig; that makes sense, because leaf buds are where mitosis happens, the cell division that makes new growth (and, with any luck, a fuller rose bush, with more roses). A place where mitosis happens is a place that will make new growth when you cut it off – often two branches instead of one.

And, of course, I cut out the deadwood, but that’s a no-brainer. (Fortunate: since some of my health issues are neurological, lack of brain is frequently what I have to work with.)

There are infinite resources of information available to us, at any time, all around. All we have to do is listen, and learn how to receive it.

Well, maybe there’s one more thing: we might have to get over feeling that we’re crazy. We’ve been carefully taught how NOT to receive that information, because it’s just, well, not rational, is it? (No, it’s not, but what’s that got to do with anything?) About the time when we were being gently told that our invisible friend wasn’t real, and that magical speaking plants were just a pretty story, we began closing our ears to those worlds. The worlds where anything can shift in an instant, where we aren’t limited to human speech or human understanding. The worlds of that peace we so often find in the garden.

That’s because a garden – and this isn’t even weird science, it’s accepted physics – a garden is really a dancing whirl of waves and particles which can part, shift, and rearrange in an instant. Which respond to our desires. (Yep, they’ve done tests for that, too.) And since cities, buildings, oceans, and human bodies are made of that same dancing whirl, a garden is a place where we can return to feeling that we belong in the world, that the world can be a beautiful place to be, and our part in it can be beautiful, too.

When we do without the leafy ornament of words, the extended branches of meaning, the hard dead carapace of a past life, we return to our natural selves, opening to the ever-moving life that flows around and through us.

11 comments

1 Genevieve { 01.25.13 at 2:11 pm }

Pomona, one of my very first bosses in landscaping taught me exactly what you’re saying. It’s not something we talk about, but yes, the plants give you clues, and often more than that, a mental nudge in the right direction, especially when you ask. It sounds woo-woo, but there it is. It’s a beautiful feeling to work in harmony with your garden. That boss gave me The Findhorn Garden when I left to go to college for writing. It’s an inspiring book that shares a lot of what you are saying here.

2 Brent (Breathing Treatment) { 02.01.13 at 8:45 am }

You still have a readership that includes me and Genevieve, above. I know I’ll be back to read your next update too.

3 Pomona Belvedere { 02.01.13 at 9:50 pm }

Genevieve, I think fate handed you a really good teacher in that boss. I have the Findhorn garden book from way back, and I can still find value from pulling it off the shelf and reading a bit. Always rings true.

Brent, very nice to know that there are two people reading my post! I think that ups my projected readership by 200%! Not that that’s my aim, these days…I just enjoy getting the words out and it more than doubles my pleasure to know others enjoy them, too. I appreciate you stopping by.

4 sheorobin { 03.11.13 at 1:46 pm }

Thanks for writing this. I am part of your readership, too. Always coming back to your posts on bulbs. The woo is why we garden. We should all just come out and say it. Glad that you did.

5 Alicia { 03.30.13 at 7:25 pm }

Hello, Pomona,
You write so beautifully. I discovered your website, because I needed information about the fragrance of Clary Sage. I loved what you wrote and found the reader comments helpful as well. I own the Library Mix website, but also write regularly for the Flowers by the Sea “Everything Salvias” website. I hope that you feel well enough to write again and that I get to read more of your posts.

6 Maureen { 04.08.13 at 9:14 am }

Just discovered your blog and have been enjoying it. I’m from NW WA so the pictures of madrones and Western Red Cedar are comforting. I’m sorry to hear of your illness. Nurturing plants is much like nursing our own health; sometimes changes are so fast you can’t keep up, like the explosion of blossoms on my espaliered cherry; other times improvement takes years, like waiting for my apple saplings to mature and fruit. I hope you are able to continue to appreciate the wonders of your garden; the beautiful plants you’ve nurtured can now reciprocate by nurturing your soul. All the best.

7 Pomona Belvedere { 04.20.13 at 7:28 pm }

sheorobin – and thank you so much for saying that!

Alicia, thanks for the kind words. I’m a big fan of clary sage, as you might be able to tell – and I look forward to seeing what you have to say on salvias.

Maureen, that is such a beautiful = and true – analogy. Thank you for putting it into my imagination in that way.

8 Theresa Peterson { 04.22.13 at 11:57 am }

Hi Pomona, I am in agreement, you do write beautifully. I came across this website looking for foxfire (speaking of garden magic of a different kind!) I’m not sure if you have many followers any more, but I could relate to everything you wrote. I know about long bouts of illness that can strip you of most everything. But that’s not where it ends – that’s where it begins. It’s at that place that God can show you some of His greatest miracles, in the garden and elsewhere in life. What you said about Garden Magic is wonderful – there is so much truth in it. Most every great scientific discovery – if not every – ever made was the result of someone noticing something ‘different’. It is that very special power of observation, to see the unexpected that broadens our understanding of the natural world around us. I get so excited when something happens in the garden that’s ‘not suppose to’, because that is when we are really on the cutting edge of discovery. When my rose that is suppose to be 2-4 feet decides one year that it is going to grow to 14 feet! or my Mediterranean basil decides to self seed in Nebraska over winter! (Really cold winters here) The list goes on and on and on. The great part is it won’t ever end, because that is the nature of the creation – it is manifold and complex and ever- changing. Just when we think we have a glimpse of it (which we do at times) it evaporates into a new strain, undetected species, or far more complex modes of adaptivity that we hadn’t even yet considered. Simply beautiful.
I think that George Washington Carver, researcher/inventor/humanitarian never lost sight of this wonder, his brilliant mind withstanding.There is something in me that is always delighted when an extension newsletter, or plant catalogue, or expert, or I am/is proven wrong. It simply means that the wonder will never end, because we can’t comprehend it all.
I love the thought of endless discoveries. I think that this is the way it’s suppose to be. I could go on about this, but I will stop there. I really didn’t have time to read your blog carefully as I am doing several things at once right now (bill paying ugh), so I am looking forward to going back and reading it more carefully. Something in your words truly struck me – because I never take the time to write! Thank you and I hope that you have a lovely Spring day, Theresa Peterson

9 Alicia { 04.23.13 at 10:06 pm }

Pomona, I just finished one on annual clary sage this week and will send you the link when it publishes.

10 Alicia { 04.26.13 at 8:40 pm }

Pomona, here is the link to my article about annual clary sage at the Flowers by the Sea website.
http://www.fbts.com/everything-salvias/sacred-salvias/sacred-sage-annual-clary-sage-for-full-sun-gardens.html

11 Kathy { 05.16.13 at 1:40 pm }

Pomona,
I too have been checking in to see if there is a now post. I have your link in my favorites and was hoping you would return. I wish you all the best with your health and recovery. And may you stay happy and well in your garden and with us enjoying the magic of plants!

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