When pruning, aim for a clean, neat cut if you can, as growth behind it will be quicker.


Trimming one's bush

Whatever happened to good telly? You used to be able to switch on and find at least something that was worth watching. Maybe I’m just getting old (of course, I am) but things just aren’t what they used to be on the box.

Nowadays the airwaves are dominated by programs like The World’s Greatest Ever in the History of Mankind Never-seen-before Car Chases Caught on Tape. Really, this stuff was boring even before it was “the world’s greatest ever”, but it’s TV for the masses, so each one “greater” than the one before.

Even the Discovery Channel is succumbing to the temptation to hype things up. Gone are the days of informative programming – now it’s The World’s Biggest… or programs about disasters. It’s getting old. What do they do next?

So-called “comedy” shows are just plain embarrassing now, with their predictable routines and canned laughter. M*A*S*H, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, was incredibly popular in the UK at the time. Why? Obviously, it was hilarious, but also because there was no canned laughter. It left its British audience to decide for itself what parts of the show they should find funny.

Why can’t they bring back some of the old classics? Fawlty Towers, obviously, and The Two Ronnies would have to be there, but what about that forgotten classic, Steptoe and Son?

A truly bizarre bit of television, Steptoe and Son was all about a lustful old rag-and-bones man in London named Albert who lived with his long-suffering son, Harold, or ’Arold as he was known by his father.

The grubby and irritating Albert wasn’t exactly the easiest person in the world to live with, and the hapless son constantly did his best to escape from his father.

Any Brits from my generation will remember the lascivious leers from the old man upon any mention of anything even vaguely female. The response from ’Arold was predictable: the immortal “You dirty old man…”.

I’m probably turning into a bit of a dirty old man myself, actually. In fact there’s no “turning into” about it – I think that in all likelihood I’ve been a dirty old man for years. There, I’ve said it. There are too many single gentlemen of my generation who try to deny it.

I even found myself distracted in a dirty-old-man kind of way while gardening recently. A friend of mine who is younger, far better looking and decidedly more female decided to trim her bush in her front garden. It was becoming a little unkempt so she decided to attack it with the pruning shears, and kind of kept going.

That’s the thing about pruning – once you start you can’t stop. An hour later, she decided to take a break, and the fact that we live in Phuket, and that she’d decided to undertake this task in the heat of the day, meant that she’d become a bit sweaty.

She hadn’t bothered wearing a certain undergarment when she’d got up that morning, with the result her now-sodden T-shirt was doing a magnificent job of highlighting a particular part of her anatomy. Well, two particular parts, if you want to get technical. This is the kind of gardening I like. Even pruning can be fun.

Talk to a gardener from the Western world about pruning, and he’ll take a sharp intake of breath immediately, and shake his head with doubtful severity. “Now you’ve got to be careful”, he’ll say. “You really need to pick a suitable bud, and cut exactly an inch above that. But of course you can’t prune that particular plant at this time of the year,” and so on.

As we all know, we’re not in that part of the world – we’re in Phuket. No need for doubtful severity here. You can just hack away at whatever you want. Literally.

There’s a lot of nonsense put forth by so-called experts about pruning, but here are a few Bert tips, for what they’re worth:

You can prune at just about any time of the year.

You should cut in such a way that you think the whole thing either works better or looks better – make it the shape you want and encourage it to grow in the direction you tell it to.

Aim for a clean, neat cut if you can, as growth behind it will be quicker.

When pruning large branches, first make a small cut underneath to stop the bark from tearing all the way down the limb.

If you’re not sure what your intentions are, prune in stages, a bit at a time; you can always take more off, but it’s hard to stick bits back on again.

Be ruthless if that’s what’s needed.

There are some plants for which pruning is essential to promote new growth. Many plants have a single flower or group of flowers on the end of a stalk rising from the ground. Heliconia, canna and some members of the lily family are examples. They are healthiest when whole stems are cut back completely once their flowers have finished blooming. Each stem will flower only once.

Should you want to take pruning to the extreme, then you could even sculpt your hedge into the shape you want. With the speed of growth here, it doesn’t take long to train your plant around a wire frame of just about any shape.

I’m a big fan of gardening by the fairer sex. Does that make me a dirty old man? Yes, probably. Do I care? Not in the slightest. I’m even happy to dispense advice to appropriately-dressed willing lady pruners, or help to trim their bushes. Happy hacking.


home  |  about bert  |  articles by plant  | articles by rant

Phuket Gazette  |  contact bert  | © Bloomin' Bert 2003-2012