I remember watching my mother cut my dad’s hair, and then my younger brother’s, also. Each sat in a kitchen chair with a dish towel draped around his shoulders. When she got a little too zealous (or creative?) with the electric razor on their crew cuts, she’d say, “It’s OK–it’ll grow out.”
I’ve adopted that attitude as my pruning philosophy. In fact, I think it’s a philosophy that might cover quite a few of life’s problems and disappointments.
These cold, dark, overcast winter days get to me. Come January, I push myself to get outside just a little bit every day when the rain allows. Everywhere I look I see leggy, overgrown plants and dead foliage which match my mid-winter mood. Whacking back the remains of last year’s peony growth or cutting back the bottom fig tree branches that are trailing onto the ground actually helps. Years ago, I studied some pruning instructions, but at some point closed the book and went on to develop my own methods, always confident that “it’ll grow back!”
Last month on the very day I intended to call Ray, my expert fruit tree pruner, he called me, and his crew of artists showed up and pruned the trees the next day. I trim just a very few shoots after the harvest in early fall, but his fine crew does the bulk of the job in January or February.
I always start my pruning jobs with the grapes, something I enjoy–untangling their long, intertwined branches and cutting them all the way back to the thick main shoot. About 25 years ago, I made a giant wreath from some of the prunings, about four to five feet high, attached a big red bow, and I’ve hung it every Christmas since then on the front of the house, in lieu of lights. Occasionally I find someone who wants the grape prunings for a craft project, but usually Bill comes and hauls them away in his 1970 Chevy pick-up called “Nathan William.”
After the grapes, I cut the butterfly bush almost to the ground. Yesterday I cut back some of the now slimy irises that I’m not fond of and keep threatening to remove, my treasured dahlias, and the oregano. I also whacked back the blueberries that were trying to stretch up and out of my reach. I cut way more than I’d intended, but they’ll grow back.
Sometimes pruning happens without any work by me or by Ray and his crew. This morning I took my long-handled pruner down to the big pussy willow bush, now at its showy best, next to the road. I looked both ways. No cars coming–good! I quickly cut a couple of branches up high to take to my mother, and headed up the driveway. But not fast enough. A van had pulled into my driveway.
“Is is OK for me to cut some branches of your pussy willow for my wife?” the man hollered.
“Of course,” I shouted back and waved. As I turned to continue up the driveway, I wondered if he expected me to do the cutting? Or did he want to use my pruner? This has happened before and it’s always a little awkward and the reason I like to cut without anyone noticing.
Some strangers stop and ask permission, or even come to my back door to ask. Some simply stop and help themselves. That pussy willow is a prolific producer, so I’m glad for the extra trimming, but prefer they do it themselves.
After Ray’s crew left, I looked out at the trim, shaped trees and had the same feeling I have after a good haircut–ready to go!