Gardening in Place; Dire Measures for Dramatic Times

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Osmanthus armatus after renovation
 Osmanthus armatus after renovation

Our too rotund Osmanthus armatus after renovation. It will return more sleek and stylish by early July.

An Opportunity for Draconian Measures

One of the most liberating aspects of moving from our home at Heronswood to our own private garden in Indianola in 2004 was the ability to change the direction of our garden at the drop of a hat. At Heronswood, for over twenty years and with a continual parade of guests arriving with high expectations of a well-put-together garden, there was always a reason to stay the course. Nothing radical. What would the neighbors say?

I am rather certain we are not alone- except that, well, yes, we are alone- in sensing this rarely offered opportunity in our gardens. We are all guilty of having tolerated that massive beast we inherited through the purchase of our properties, that has, over time, become the unappreciative lump we have accepted like the brother-in-law that never repays his loans. Its removal or reduction simply seemed too Bernie Sanders to contemplate. And besides, the brother-in-law is bringing his new wife, her parents and her five kids from four previous marriages for a visit over the 4th of July. The garden should look presentable.

Well, the thing is, they have had to change their plans. They are not coming. This is probably the appropriate time to break it to you. Nobody is coming.

Over the decades at Heronswood, in its original format and now in its new reiteration, to duane has become a verb. Its origins in our vernacular stem from Duane West, our former nursery manager and now chief horticulturist (in a contractual sense). I duane, you duane, he, she and it duaned. They are duaning the bathtub as we speak. This refers to Duane’s easily recognizable approach to pruning. A severe shingling on a plant overgrown its position or having lost its grace.

What Duane understands in his methodology is that most if not all of our garden shrubs (some coniferous shrubs and most trees are another matter) are programmed to survive quite well a severe truncation of their very being. There is very little a simple gardener can do to thwart 500 million years worth of evolution. Yes, they will look downright preposterous for a month or perhaps longer. By mid-summer, however, they will be again in trim uniform, no longer taking layers of paint from your car along the driveway. No longer asking for a loan they have no intention of repaying.

So, should you have even needed my permission, or a reminder that the neighborhood patrols by Plant Amnesty have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, the time- time available in convenient bargain-sized quantities- has arrived. We hope you will seize the moment. If you do, we wish you profound enjoyment in duaning your garden, while staying safe and well until the next time we meet.

– Dan