Monday, June 6, 2016

Trimming Vanessa & other Cutting-edge Tales

Trees, front, back and side. Trees ... they enchanted me on my first visit to the spot I now call "home." I could identify dogwood (although not the variety), Douglas fir, Red-leaf maple, Coral Bark maple and American Sweetgum. Stewartia and Parrotia Persica (Persian Ironwood, Vanessa), were both new to me. I've learned Stewartia behaves herself, but Vanessa? She's not supposed to be such a tramp!

Vanessa loves to shoot branches, thick with six-inch-long leaves, under the porch, out over the small front garden and into my neighbor's walkway. "Slow grower"? I think not! 
I am the fortunate owner of an extendable (to 12') pruner (thanks to my brother and sister-in-law). I grab this handy tool about every other week during the spring and summer, lopping off errant branches as high as I can comfortably reach. This is a wonder tool, but if I stretch up as far as possible, I get dizzy. This means that Vanessa tends to drape over part of the roof. That's the reason professional tree trimmers were called earlier in the year.  
I also have a pair of very, very sharp hand pruners. I use these on the smaller shoots (or twigs) that pop out along the lower limbs.

Using the hand pruners one day, my zeal overpowered my common sense and I forgot to put on my gardening gloves. I began cutting small, 1-1.5" thick limbs. It took just two snips before I cut a big slice out of the index finger on my left hand...the hand that held the small branch. Lesson learned!

When I first saw this property, I noted the beautiful Coral Bark maple in the back sported a “flat top" haircut. Meaning, it appeared someone reached out from the deck railing and cut across the entire top of the tree! The lower area sprouted twiggy branches. The whole tree resembled a ragged, uncared-for shrub! No more, however. Three years of tender, loving care and the Coral Bark maple is a glorious specimen!

The other trees all get minimal pruning or trimming. They’re quite well behaved. However, when one does need a bit of taming, it’s usually on limbs that have proven too big for my hand-strength (I hate to acknowledge this!).

Exploring garden tools last weekend, I came across a set of ratchet pruning shears. Ta da! Yes, I bought a pair (even though I was a bit chagrined to see the advertisement for them said they were perfect for “weak hands”! That’s not easy to admit, but guess it’s just one more thing to accept as I age).

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.
~Hal Boland

Two five-gallon buckets are in the garage and two in the shed, at the ready for the times I take scissors in hand and go around the garden deadheading flowers. I bought some inexpensive scissors to use for this purpose. Now I need to buy some more!

Three days ago I dumped a bucket filled with trimmings into the garden recycle bin, set the bin at the curb for pickup. Yesterday I realized I left my scissors in the bucket! Not only am I mad at myself for doing this, but I’m mighty concerned about what the shears will do to the recycling machinery. Again, however, lesson learned!

After living in apartments for so many years, it seems some of what I thought were my inherent, in-grown gardening “chops" have flown.

As an example, last fall, in a frenzy to get the flower beds all ready for their winter’s rest, I went way beyond my usual fall-cleanup and cut down many perennials too soon or cut them way too low. I’ve lost a number of my favorite plants. Luckily there are signs of life, albeit struggling, in others.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
Image result for salvia
~Henri Matisse

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Walking a Fine Line on a Slippery Slope

I've had a life. I see how slippery things can be.
~Annie Proulx

Even at my age, after all these decades of living, I still consider myself a work in progress. In many ways, I take pride in that—being a “work in progress”—as it tells me I’m still striving and learning and maybe most important, I’ve proven to myself I am able to change, alter or soften my opinions, my way of thinking, my outlook.

There have been dozens, possibly hundreds of times when I’ve shown intolerance for the opinions of others, when I’ve been less than respectful of another person’s point of view.

It is the province of knowledge to speak,
And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Several years ago I audited a college class that was an adjunct to a writing course I was taking. We were going to learn to be critical thinkers.

Up to that time, I’d never heard the term “critical thinking.” When I parsed the two-word phrase, I knew I’d often been “critical” (in the derogatory sense and not in a manner involving skillful judgment as to truth and merit) and I have always been a “thinker.” I just never realized one could be proud of being a “critical thinker.” [cont'd]