Once upon a time there was a well-known horticulturist named Adam who thought he knew what was best when choosing and designing plants for his house. When it was time to plant his window boxes, Adam’s wife deferred to his experience and simply said, “I want them full and colorful.” “No worries,” Adam said.
Adam knew the best plants from his experiences and went to a local garden shop. He could not find any of the cultivars he knew were excellent. He went to two other locations in town and the story was the same; either the cultivar name was not on the tag, or they were old and tired selections. Adam had not shopped much before; after all he worked with plants and always was able to find what he needed from the greenhouse. He was understandably upset when none of the plants he told people about could be found. His wife, on the other hand, saw lots of color, but even she could not find a nice white or clear pink, regardless of varieties.
They came across some alyssums and finally spied a handsome mix of petunias and verbenas in a container. Looking at the plant mix, Horticulture Adam thought of ways he could separate them and use them in his boxes. Together they walked out of the store, plants in hand, ready to work – he the plant guy, she the decorator.
The boxes, soil and the plants were assembled on his table and everything was done “by the book.” The boxes were filled with top-of-the-line planting soil, and properly moistened. However, he quickly realized that he could not easily separate the plants without doing significant damage. No worries, he thought, I’ll simply slide the combinations into each end of the boxes. Susan came out and gave the thumbs up, and went back in.
Being the professional he was, Adam knew there was one more thing to do. As he always did when planting in the landscape, he proceeded to cut everything back, hard. His knew from experience that this would help with overcrowding, disease issues and aeration, and the plants would of course grow back and be even more colorful in a few weeks. He proceeded; and finished hanging three of the four boxes when he heard Susan gasping in horror.
“Where’s my color?” “Where are the flowers?” “What have you done?” Adam jumped aback with each question and tried to explain that proper horticultural techniques demanded they be cut back. She countered that this was her house, not one of his landscapes that people would not see every day or one of his experiments in trialing – “Do the other one properly!
Adam could win an argument with his crew, but not with his wife. Putting away the shears, Adam dutifully hung the last box up, unshorn and flamboyant. Stepping back he looked at his handiwork then let out a huge sigh; he realized she was right. There was no comparison nor would there be for many weeks.
The moral of the story should be obvious. Gardeners and decorators are not professionals. Gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure. There is no wrong way to plant a petunia nor is cutting back necessary or even desirable. Who cares?
Kudos to Susan for reminding Adam why he loved his work so much; we can all use a little reality every now and then.