For someone who is practically allergic to the color green, I truly do love and enjoy landscaping and gardening. In a lot of ways, metaphors over five thousand years old make a lot of sense when you take the plant into your hands. There’s life and creativity in a garden. If you’re doing it right, there’s also a mirror.
I’m not a stranger to pruning metaphors. My thesis famously begins with the pruning of the cherry tree that used to be in our backyard. If you’ve known me for a while, you’ve probably seen the evidence of the grand pruning adventure that Mom and I seemingly undertake every year in our yard. Pruning leads to life, after all, and we like our trees.
Yesterday, I continued the work I’ve been doing on our front flowerbed. We’ve had some pretty thick hedges for a few years now, and I’ve been cleaning out the weeds and the old mulch so that we could lay down new ground cover and eventually get some river rock in. However, when Mom and I attempted to insert the ground cover, it became readily apparent that the bed wasn’t ready for the cosmetic changes. There was still more work to be done.
Trying to trim under hedges is surprisingly easy, once you can get the first branch out of the way. That’s mostly done with some blind faith—and in one bush that meant accidentally cutting down the biggest branch of the whole bush. Oops.
I raised each bush six to eight inches from the ground and discovered an entire new layer of decomposing mulch, rotting leaves, and old branches. The process became raise the hedge, clean out the base. For the first six, this was a relatively painless process—with no allergies!—and the plants look really happy.
But the final two looked quite different. There were streaks of dead leaves shooting up the hedges. Dead leaves and bright, green ones shared the same stems. The first plant lost sixteen inches and was greatly thinned out before the dead was removed. The second, and final, plant? Well. It started out as a square pillar, and ended as a rounded ball nearly two feet off the ground.
I would snip and step back. Snip some more, step back. The outer layer would be perfect, but the inner layer would be streaked with dead, all from the same stem. Snip, snip, snip. You would never know it’s the plant it used to be, and when you’re removing the dead, that’s exactly the point.
Before the cosmetic steps can be taken, a new layer of top soil needs to be added. The roots are showing on quite a few of the plants. Pruning can often feel like an uprooting. But the heavy pruning is done. Some light trimming will be done on top of the plants, and then the ground cover will be laid. The protection.
It’s exhausting, dirty, grime-y work, but ultimately very rewarding and in the grand scheme of things, quick. If only our personal pruning seasons, our re-grounding seasons, our cosmetic seasons went so quickly. But, as Jesus said, look at the flowers and we’re so much more than that.