Scissors and a Mood

TT insists that when the houseplants see me coming with scissors or pruners in my hand, they recoil in fear, shrieking for protection for their very lives.

While there may be some truth to the premise that the plants might respond to such events, (here I refer you to the experiments of Marcel Vogel, a research chemist for IBM, who had also studied for years to become a Franciscan priest, and his experiments with philodendrons, as reported in The Secret Life of Plants, written in 1972 by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird), I reject the notion that our houseplants fear me.  If that were so, they would have died from fright years ago.

In my defense I first offer a family of three Crowns of Thorns plants, actually a division of a single plant, which is older than me, and I am older than I want to tell you.  They each stand approximately 48 inches tall and are approximately 18 inches wide.  I call them my indoor hedge.  Hardly fearful vegetation; they are more like fearsome weapons with their thousands of thorns greatly outnumbering the delicate red blossoms that represent the blood of Jesus, hence the name, “Crown of Thorns”.

As a second point of evidence, I present a Christmas cactus which is nearly 36 inches across and which every autumn will put to bloom hundreds of gorgeous lipstick pink colored blossoms.  I’m not quite sure how old this plant is, but it was my grandmother’s and she died at the age of 72, 40 years ago, and I remember loving that (then much smaller) plant as a young child because it would let me hug it and play with it, and the leaves were always cool to the touch, and it was the one thing in Grandma’s house that I was allowed to play with without being scolded.  The Christmas cactus and I have a long history of happy co-habitation, having celebrated the Christmas holidays together for…well more years than I will tell you.

The third houseplant I present to the Court of Selective Pruners is a touch-averse African Violet which likes to be persnickety and will give out false signals that it wants to be pampered and held in high esteem.  The fact of the matter is that if it is ignored, even a bit neglected, it will blossom over and over again vying for attention,  praise, and water.   Once given, however, blossoms rot, leaves droop and start to rot as well, and like a tease, will hold out on blooming again until it is good and ready to do so.  I have been allowed to serve the whims of this African Violet since it was given to me by my daughter for Mother’s Day via her Sunday School teacher 17 years ago.

Although there are several more plants throughout our house, I will mention one more, an Asparagus Plumosa (asparagus fern), which I bought as a 3” seedling when I was freshman in college….more years ago than I will tell you.  It now cheerfully resides in a 20 inch clay pot on my front porch and will reach out to hug anyone who cares to approach.  It’s name is “Buddy”

With regard to mood, I am always very careful.  For example if the mood universal at pruning time, then obviously the plant would not survive its first pruning, as it would have been cut at the base and tossed out with the trash.  Some particulars have to be brought in for best results.  For this I rely on visual cues given to me by the plants, and that is easy enough.  One does not need to be fluent in plant language to see when a leaf is dead or when a branch is top heavy or drooping, or when it is becoming burdensome for the roots to carry.  Snip, snip, a pat on the head, a bit of water, done.

The most important rule in pruning houseplants, however,  is learning when to stop.  And with that, your Honor, I rest my case.


1 Comment

  1. March 1, 2010 at 1:23 am

    This pruner identified with your musings and laughed at the sissy scissor sillies who mock us!

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