28 January 2010

on planting and pruning

January is a time for new beginnings. Yes, a terrible cliché... but I don't refer to diets or exercise regimes or filthy habit cessation. My mind is in the garden. As I mentioned in a particularly memorializing post, my parents were gardeners. Seems the one (yes, just one) thing I absorbed from their efforts was "always prune roses in January." This rule is permanently tattooed on my brain. All through my early adulthood, during which time I never ever gardened, if you asked me what I knew about green things that grew in dirt, I'd probably have parroted back, zombie-like: PRUNE. ROSES. JANUARY.


A few years ago, I started tending roses as a memorial to my parents. They're my first real plant babies, and the 2010 pruning ritual has been carried out. My three potted roses have taken on the appearance of graceful, vase-shaped (hopefully; I'm a pruning rookie) clusters of thorny olive-green sticks. It's a yearly investment of custodial care. By which I mean standing in the January cold, Felcos in hand, pacing circles around the unsuspecting bushes, visualizing and agonizing over each potential cut. Roses (and many other plants) thrive after a dramatic, brave pruning of misguided or overzealous growth. A lesson there?

And now there are a few more sticks populating our nascent garden. Ones that I have high, hungry hopes for. We're growing three semi-dwarf apples. Or, rather, we're currently growing some pretty reddish brown twigs that will sprout a little this season, get pruned a little in a year, grow some more, get pruned some more... and on for a few years until they start to bear fruit. I'm anticipating some kind of "plant goes through puberty and becomes an adult" type of ritual. Ha. (I admit I've been doing a lot of reading on apple hormones, preparing for those first nervous pruning cuts.)

Anyway, it's a long, patient, worthwhile investment. At some point, I'll be swooning under branches of delicate crepe-paper blossoms and ecstatically counting each of the first baby fruits. First bites into first apples. There will be lots more reading and agonizing... and eventually much jumping up and down. I can't wait. For now, every few days I'm sneaking out to the back of the garden to steal glimpses of those pretty brown sticks.

image via Flickr

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