One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a gardener has been the value of cutting back.
It’s easy enough to do when plants have died or grown completely out of control. At those points the problem – and the solution – are obvious.
What’s more difficult is trimming and pruning before things get messy. Deadheading is a never-ending chore with some plants. Battling a seven-foot-high rose bush armed with only a pruner and some gloves is a daunting task. Pinching back right when flowers first begin to bloom in the spring is nearly impossible for me to do.
But with experience I’ve learned that cutting back creates room for growth, making both the plant itself and its neighbors healthier and more vibrant in the long run.
The connection to daily life is not hard to see. But in my schedule, just like in my garden, I too often neglect the cutting back. What does cutting back look like?
- It’s not merely about doing less, it’s about redirecting finite time and energy. Just like faded blooms and sprawling shoots can tax a plant’s resources, so can activities that no longer serve us drain the energy that could be better spent elsewhere in our lives.
- When you’re out of control, everyone else suffers. An overgrown plant can stunt the growth of its neighbors, blocking their access to sun and water. So it is when we have allowed our lives to become unmanageable — our families, friends, and co-workers all suffer the consequences.
- Strategic pruning leads to new growth. Two weeks ago, the roses, sage, and petunias in my garden all got a “haircut.” For a few days, they looked a little forlorn, but now they are sporting new leaves and blossoms. What activity in your life could use an overhaul to make it function better?
- Spent blossoms drag the whole plant down. Clipping off spent echinacea blooms never fails to amaze me. The leftover seed heads are quite heavy and will make the stems bend all the way to the ground. But after a few snips, the whole flower straightens back up within minutes. What in your life or work is dragging you down? Maybe it’s come on so gradually that you hardly even notice the fact that you’re almost face first in the dirt.
- To everything there is a season. The daffodils that are so lovely in the spring are no more than dead brown strands by late June. You can’t make them last all year even if you tried. Same goes for those things in our life that we wish we could hold on to, but can’t. Children are only young for a while, the new car smell fades and that great product you invented is now copied by other companies. Enjoy the bloom while it’s in season, knowing it won’t last forever.