pruning, aim for a clean, neat cut if
you can, as growth behind it will be
Trimming one's bush
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
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
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
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
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.
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.