Annals of domestic life: pruning the ivy-leaved geranium

Another little posting about what I’m doing, coming close to a posting about nothing, in the tradition of Seinfeld. Today it was a gardening task, but a very complex one (at least for someone who has to get around in a walker), ultimately taking me an hour of steady hard work, with very considerable assistance from my helper León (in what turned out to be nearly 80-degree heat, but in the shade and not at all unpleasant). I’ll explain the job and then the details of our work.

But first, of course, Seinfeld.

The show about nothing. From Wikipedia:

(#1) George and Jerry caught in mid-gesture

Seinfeld is an American television sitcom created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. It aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, for nine seasons consisting of 180 episodes. It stars Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself and focuses on his personal life with three of his friends: best friend George Costanza (Jason Alexander), former girlfriend Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and his neighbor from across the hall, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). It is set mostly in an apartment building in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in New York City. It has been described as “a show about nothing”, often focusing on the minutiae of daily life.

The ivy-leaved geraniums. (Well, pelargoniums, popularly called geraniums.) In a big wooden container on the street by the entrance to my condo.  A great mass of plants, just greenery for part of the year, but covered in magenta flowers in late spring and early summer.  Looking more or less like this, year after year:

(#2) The ivy-leaved geraniums in bloom some years ago; note the leaves, and note that the plants are growing next to a stand of English ivy (Hedera helix), which is forever trying to invade the planter

You will see that the geraniums have merely ivy-like leaves, easily distinguishable from actual ivy (but I had considerable difficulty explaining this to León — who, however, immediately grasped things through pointing, and became something of a demon in finding ivy were it didn’t belong. Meanwhile, invading from above (a trellis above the entryway) was the rampant vine Dolichandra unguis-cati, cat’s-claw creeper, which, fortunately, looks totally different from the other two plants. But had somehow managed to get into everything. León quickly became adept at finding it in remarkable places and bringing it to me for cutting up.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.

So the geraniums look like #2 for late spring and early summer. Then the flower petals drop, and the plants become an unsightly mass of spent flower heads and dying-back flower stalks (the next bloom grows entirely on new shoots), all mixed in with those invasive plants. A really big clean-up job, to cut back all the crap, chop it into pieces into a bag (or two, as it turned out today), from which all those cuttings can be thrown on my garden strip as compost.

Now, when I do pruning of the plants in my patio garden, it’s a small task that I can do standing up supported by my indoor walker, leaning over and wielding my secateurs and scissors. But I could not possibly do that for an hour out on the street. Instead, I need to be able to sit in the seat of my way-cool outdoor walker and bend down from there.

That means that getting ready for today’s job involved, first, using my indoor walker to extract the tools I need — secateurs, paper bags, scissors — from the tool box by the patio door, carry them out the garden gate to the front of the house, while León brought the outdoor walker from the house out to the street and together we got it, and me and the tools, all together. With  the indoor walker standing by for when I had to take everything back into the patio.

A very long, but not unpleasant, labor then ensued: gradually hacking back all the junk (with León periodically sweeping up the sidewalk of all the stuff that had dropped there and putting it in one of the bags).  We kept finding new nests of dead stuff to cut back and chop up. But slowly the plants took shape, until it was all a mass of fresh green, with a fair number of shots already sending up buds. We are very proud of our work.

Then of course bringing the junk and the tools and the walkers back indoors. León got to toss the cuttings on the garden strip, with a certain amount of vindictive gusto: take that, you trash! And we got back to ordinary life indoors. It was remarkably tiring, but I am happy.

I warned you, just a lot of nothing. No lessons, just things that happened.



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