"What about these mugos?" I
gestured to one of the pines framing our front stairs. Well, blocking
the stairs, actually. Any time visitors come to the front door, they
have to practically vault over the greenery.
"That's not mugo," the
arborist said. "It's dwarf scotch. Softer needles."
I nodded and cast a glance at my
husband. This was the third plant we'd misidentified so far.
"Look at the size of that trunk.
That pine is forty years old at least." He studied it,
scratching his chin. "Never been pruned, either."
Exactly. I wanted the shrubs trimmed
back, to open up the house's entrance and to give it a more balanced
look. As it was now, the shrub on the left was easily twice the size
of its partner to the right.
"Do you know the best way to
prune?" The arborist asked.
I grinned. "Close my eyes and hack
away." I think he thought I was joking.
"You have some pruners? I can show
you how to do it."
"I'll get them," I said,
eager to prove that my husband and I knew something about
landscaping. I went to the garage and grabbed the pruners.
The arborist watched my approach.
"Those aren't pruners. Those are loppers."
"Oh," I said softly, letting
the tool drop to my side.
The arborist took the loppers and
began trimming the right shrub, talking us through the process as he
worked. "Now this would be easier with pruners," he said
over his shoulder, but let's see what we can do." He trimmed and
studied, studied and trimmed. He stepped back and studied the
overall effect and trimmed some more. As we watched great vacancies
sprang up here and there within the shrub, but it began to take some
"It looks better!" My husband
"Look up natural pruning,"
the arborist replied. "You'll get the hang of it." He
handed me the loppers and studied the shrub one last time. "Well,
it doesn't look worse than it did," he said. "That's what
happens when you leave the trimming for so long. Get yourself a good
pair of pruners."
"I will," I promised.
And I did, but not before tackling the
shrubs with the loppers this afternoon. I trimmed the right one
first, finishing the job the arborist had started, cutting enough
back so that I could see the porch's handrail. I stepped back to
admire my work. Not bad. Certainly not worse than it had looked.
The left shrub next.
The giant shrub.
The shapeless blob that was devouring
half of the entrance.
I trimmed and studied, studied and
trimmed, positioning the cumbersome loppers carefully, taking my
time, following the directions given to me by the arborist. I stood
back. I couldn't see the handrail.
I returned to the shrub and trimmed
I stepped back.
Still I couldn't see the handrail.
I trimmed and I trimmed and I trimmed.
(I had studied enough.)
Finally, the shrub had been taken down
I stood back...and gasped: I could see
the handrail. But half of the shrub was gone.
"It looks like a van Gogh,"
my husband said, gesturing at my work. "Looks like you cut off
"But you can see the handrail
now," I pointed out. "And doesn't look worse than it did."
"I'm not sure..." my husband
And I am not sure either.
I'll be sure to let you know in the
Tomorrow I paint those beautiful
handrails and...wait: Do those azaleas look a bit scruffy to you?
Labels: essay, home ownership