Pruning with Excalibur


Pruning is an essential part of gardening. By pruning I mean cutting back the old, the dead, and the unwanted, to encourage new, stronger growth and better shapes. The trick is knowing what to cut and what to keep. Take my Gardenia Floribunda as an example. Currently it’s on the cusp of full bloom magnificence. My wedding bouquet was crafted with gardenias, so the creamy plush, perfumed flowers have a special place in my heart garden. Did I mention the heavenly fragrance? Oh my, the memories it evokes.

Prone to long leggy growth, I find that cutting back as I harvest the blooms, is the way to thicken up the bush and ensure lots of flowers next season.


Of course, any sort of pruning requires the right tools. Sharp, disinfected secateurs to ensure the cut is clean and no bacteria are introduced. The right frame of mind and some skill are essential too. One has to be brave. Too little pruned off could mean fewer blooms, or a weaker flush of new growth next season. Too much removed may mean no blooms at all, or even having to endure an ugly shape until the plant forgives me and restores itself. Ahh, the hubris of human gardeners!

Sometimes I have to be harsher than I’d like, to eradicate pests or disease. The lemon tree developed wasp galls which are best dealt with by removing the whole branch. I wondered: was I doing the right thing? Poor tree; I suffered through the trauma of that amputation but the tree survived. Cutting off an offending limb is radical but often necessary.

It takes practise and knowledge to prune well. It’s hard work and doubt-inducing. Mostly one has to have the will to do it.

This seems to be an obvious statement I know. I only restate it because it’s relevant when I apply the pruning concept to my ‘mind garden’. The same rules hold true. Firstly, there must be the will to prune unwanted thoughts and perspectives. This means cultivating a mindful consciousness; one where I am aware and present in the moment. Secondly, meditation and yoga are useful tools to in this quest. They develop the mind muscle for endurance.

My mind tools aren’t called Excalibur on a whim. It helps to imagine a long magical sword instead of small hand-sized plant cutters. The visualisation reminds me I have to draw deeply and wield with courage because this process can be painful.

Old thought habits ‘die hard’; they fight back and can be vicious in the face of extinction. Constant vigilance and practice on my part is needed but when I succeed, the result is as spectacular as my well-pruned gardenia. I make way for new more constructive thoughts to bloom and flourish, which allows a new, stronger version of me to emerge – I think I like her better.

Now, where did I put my sword – I mean my secateurs?

It is this, the chance at grace

That consoles my slowing pace.

Kate Lllewellen

20 responses to “Pruning with Excalibur

  1. We had beautiful hedges of Gardenia Floribunda at the front of our house for years. When they were in flower people would stop and smell the perfume and pick the flowers (we never minded). Over time they became leggy even though they were regularly trimmed. We pulled them out eventually and replaced them with Sheena’s Gold. Definitely not the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Jane,

      glad you enjoyed the post. I use Dettol but must admit probably not frequently enough. I have just watched my sister dismantle her secateurs, sharpen them on a sharpening stone, oil them and re-mantle them – good as new! Thanks for visiting.


  2. Cruel to be kind! I must admit, pruning is one part of gardening I would definitely leave to you and those other people who know what they are doing. I love looking at plants, but it’s really not safe to let me anywhere near them, especially with sharp, cutty things.


  3. I love the analogy and am trying to be mindful, but it’s sometimes difficult for me as I am a spacial thinker. My mom’s bridal bouquet also contained gardenias and she loved them so much. It’s too cold here in New England to grow them outside, but I always try to buy a gardenia plant in February, around their anniversary, to remind me of my parents. Thanks, Robyn


    • Are you familiar with the legend of Excalibur? It was King Arthur’s magical sword that as a youth only he was able to release from the stone revealing himself to be the rightful king.


  4. Your way of pruning those unwanted thoughts is radical indeed and could be used by many gardeners. Step one is to notice that they are out of control. Step two is to know that pruning is possible. Only then is it possible to apply the sword … or cognitive behaviour therapy! In some cases I draw a cartoon, showing myself how ridiculous (and toxic) is an apparently logical rumination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have skewered it with one thrust of your sword! It’s taken me a long time to learn and even now I sometimes need to be braver. I like the cartoon strategy. Humour is always a well-honed blade

      Liked by 1 person

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