As a friend dropped me at the house Saturday and looked over at the field of clover, he said, “Well, I know you don’t like yard work.” He knew it before the blooms began to pop a month ago and his observation carried no malice.  The advice that followed revealed he wanted to help.

There are other things that need attention. Three large ferns hang on my front porch. It’s remarkable how they change the space, creating a sense of privacy though they block the view neither in nor out. From the street they look lush and full, happy and healthy.  Closer, you can see that there are sickly, brown, dead fronds beneath the cascade of green. I’ve been watering, but it runs through, creating a waterfall that splashes onto the stone ledge.

I worry about them.  They are in my care, after all, though I know I am not a good caregiver for anything that does not have a heart.  For the last few days, I’ve taken advantage of the rain and left the ferns in the yard for a good long drink.

I remember my mother caring for ferns in the ’70s.  She had a copper sprayer that was about five inches tall.  Its body was low and wide, curving up to a round handle for her index finger and a pump at the top that she pressed with her thumb to deliver a quick but gentle mist to the fronds of the plants.  She had small shears, the red handles longer than the blades, that she used to clip the dead limbs before she returned them to her macrame holders. When I have the opportunity to take inspiration on nurturing from my mother, I do.

Today, I brought my kitchen shears out to the porch and gently lifted the healthy fronds and began to trim the mess underneath. It was worse than I thought. The green leaves had hidden more dried, spindly stalks than I realized.  The whole plant was soaked and as I parted the curtain of green to get to the worst of it, dead leaves stuck to my hands.  Once clipped, the dried fronds refused to loosen their grip and I had to untangle them as they clung to their cousins.

It was the sort of task that was tiresome long before it was finished.  Beyond that, now there is a mess on the front step that I still need to clean, though I’m hoping another shower will wash away the debris.  It was heartening, however, that as I hung the ferns back on their hooks, I could see the thin, spring green stalks with gentle curls on the ends beneath the mature leaves.  I’m hopeful that at some point they will unfurl.


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11 thoughts on “Clipping

  1. Pruning is beyond me. Oh, I know it should be done, the plant will thank me for it but I just don’t have the tenacity, too fearful I’ll kill the plant.

    This was a recent conversation. A dear friend gave me a cutting from her lovely mother plant. She even potted it for me. What could be easier? Hers is a wide, thick, bushy geranium with dark green leaves and covered with tiny pink blooms that resemble the old-fashioned Cecile Brunner rose. “Oh, I’m constantly pinching off the new growth. I just give it a snap with my fingers.”, she tells me. Do I detect a little impatience in her tone? I have yet to “pinch” or “snap”. My plant is leggy, branches heading off in all directions, anemic leaves and not one blossom. Not one. I keep it before a window in the garage so it will have morning sunlight. Someday I might even muster up the courage to show it to my friend.

    1. Gail – I should have let you write this piece your descriptions are so clear. Pinching off new growth is something I have a problem with, too. Hope you’re well.

  2. I’ll begin by admitting I’m not a gardener. I’m an appreciator of flowers and well-tended gardens, but have had no luck keeping anything alive, myself. For ten years I assumed the responsibility of tending to the care of a dear friend suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, she had the financial means to remain in her apartment with the assistance of an excellent 24/7 caregiver. My daily visits assured she was well cared for and our conversations helped her hold on to some semblance of her life. Though memories faded, she never lost her love of plants and flowers, sometimes staring at her beautiful hibiscus for hours on end. As her disease progressed and forced her eyes to close, we all lost sight of the thing she treasured most, her hibiscus, as we all struggled to give her the care she required. Two weeks after the Lord called her home, as I was cleaning out the apartment, and preparing to close the door for the last time, I turned, and looked back, for one final memory of happier times. Suddenly I saw the neglected hibiscus sitting on the windowsill, dead, except for one tiny leaf still clinging to life on a dried branch. Unable to leave it, I carried it home, cutting away the dead branches, watering and feeding that one little leaf, and hoping for a miracle. I am happy to report, for the first time in my life, I am the proud mother of a thriving, hibiscus plant, whose every bloom shines with the memory of my friends face.

    1. Your comment is lovely. Just lovely.

      I’m a big believer of pruning with a cup of coffee in one hand — at least until I can train my kids to do it. 🙂

      And I hear that submerging ferns is the best way to water them, at least here in the Deep South…

  3. Every year I buy two Boston ferns to have at my front door, not from a fancy garden place, but at Lowe’s for $14.99. They look smashing by this time of year. Last year, the quart of water I gave them every day just ran off, instead of sinking in. That’s the key – they looked awful. I took a pencil and poked deep holes all around the soil and from then on, the water soaked in nicely. Give it a try. I think the best thing you can do for them is what you did when the rain came. Here are the cheapo ferns “After”

  4. I know the fern angst..finally gave up on Boston ferns and now have beautiful Fluffy Ruffle ferns that do not shed.They are not as thirsty and have a beautiful shape and color.They do nicely inside during the Winter..another big plus

  5. Clover is beautiful and very good for bees. I can’t figure out why it is seen as an enemy. Some landscapers intentionally mix in 10% clover because it helps keep the soil nourishing for the other grass–someone at a grass seed place told me this so it must be true!

  6. I’ve been attempting to have a green thumb for about 10 years now. Plants come and go, except for one. My mom gave me a clipping of her Christmas Cactus 10 years ago (yes, it’s basically my first plant) and it’s still growing to this day. I also even learned that it’s a type of plant that needs to know what season its in so that it’ll bloom flowers in the winter.

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