For those who do not like to garden because "it takes too much time," learning what dead-heading actually entails may cause you to consider it a special kind of self-inflicted torture. For those of you who, like me, find yourselves desperately wishing that you could cultivate more patience and a meditative mind, dead-heading could very well be the conduit to a great transformation.
For illustrative purposes, I offer you a photo of an egregious example from my garden this morning.
|The Daisies are looking downright funky|
One of the reason I enjoy dead-heading is that it requires precise attention. If I am not completely focused on the task at hand, especially with Gallardia (the flowers in the foreground), I risk snipping off the wrong stem and sending a lovely flower to an early grave. Cutting off a healthy flower when I mean to cut off a spent flower head also doubles my workload, as I have to go back in and locate the right stem.
I also have to be rather judicious about which heads I will remove. Some people prefer to strike at the first sign of fading petals, but I do like my plants to seed themselves. That way, I feel a bit more as if the plants and I are working together to keep the garden beautiful. So I need to leave some heads on in order to afford the plants an opportunity to let the seeds fall.
So dead-heading forces me to place all of my attention on one spot, and that has the strangest effect on me. I am suddenly aware of the tiny hairs on flower stems, running my fingers carefully down them to find where the stems begin. I can feel the blades of the secateurs sliding together and the slight crunch of the stem when they overlap one another and make the cut. I notice my breath moving slowly in and out, in a rhythm that seems to match the one my hands create in the process of clearing the plants. I sometimes count the cuts when the job seems daunting at first. I'll make a deal with myself to cut 100 and feel good about it, and then I'll notice that I'm at 187. Time slips by so easily.
|Looking a little less disheveled|
And the remarkable thing is that when I'm finished, I feel calm and the garden looks so much the better for it. The plants look refreshed, and the compost pile has some new additions. And sometimes, in dead-heading other plants, like my basil, I'm also rewarded with a little something extra for myself.
|The basil cuttings|
From a good pruning, I end up with a pile of basil that I turn into pucks of pesto. I freeze the pucks for storage and later melt one as needed into a skillet and toss with hot pasta or spread over flatbread or pizza dough. Now that's my kind of meditation.
|I see pesto in my future!|