Lessons from the Garden: Cut Them Down

Lessons from the Garden


During the last few months my little garden experienced a lot of activity that was a bit ruthless in nature. I don’t mean just regular seasonal trimming of the bushes or cutting down of some dead branches. I mean more than that.

There were several over-grown ornamental creepers that had completely taken over one big part of the side-yard (which is already very narrow as it is), all of those were uprooted and removed. Only a few vines were kept and specific area was marked for them so that they won’t try to get in everywhere. And if they do, well, I will go out and discipline them. After all that uprooting and removing I realized that I have to keep doing this on a regular basis to keep things under control.

But this was not the only ruthless activity. Many branches of the fast-growing big Fire tree in the front of the house with vibrant Peacock flowers (Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia) had taken over a substantial portion of the terracotta tiled roof of the car port. Something had to be done before the weight of the branches would start cracking up the tiles. A drastic action was needed. More than half of the tree was cut down.

It will grow back, that’s what the gardener kept saying in his gentle voice every time he saw me looking sadly and fondly touching those cut branches on the ground as he carefully stood on the boundary wall cutting some more branches and throwing them down. Many bunches of bright orange blossoms from those cut branches made their way inside the home in form of several flower arrangements that adorned various tabletops, shelves and other surfaces. But how many flowers could I bring in? A bigger chunk of them along with their leaves and other things were used for the task of making new earth (composting).
Fire Flowers (480x640)
A few other trees – bamboo, coconut, neem, champa – in the garden also saw a bit of drastic action. And many ornamental tropical plants and creepers also got heavily trimmed. Limitations of having a small garden and a fondness for growing too many things.

But the real thing was yet to come.

The bougainvillea bushes serving as an eye-catching green-pink protective hedge near the garden wall had to be cut down almost completely. This decision was taken not because of choice, this was more of a compulsion owing to a neighbour’s demand. The bountiful branches and blossoms of bougainvillea, as per their nature, were aggressively growing beyond the wall, making that corner of the neighbour’s yard look quite beautiful in a way. The blooms were welcome in his yard, the neighbour said, but not the thorns on the branches. That couldn’t be possible, now could it?

Plus, he said he was going to get some work done in his yard, in exactly the same spot where the bougainvillea branches were stooping down in his compound, not only showering their flowers but also giving him that thorny look. So we had no choice but to agree to his objection and ask our gardener to cut down, really cut down the blossoming bush. Two guys spent three hours on a Sunday morning and cut all of it down. Yes, it was that much cutting.

I watched this act of ruthlessness from my veranda and felt a deep unease every time I saw branches full of beautiful pink blossoms being cut and discarded.

Time moves quickly. At least sometimes.

About six weeks have passed since the last of the real cutting and trimming happened. New life is showing signs everywhere. New tender-green shoots are appearing on many of the bougainvillea branches. Some of the branches which could be saved from the neighbourly ‘eye’ and were creatively twisted inside the barbed wire to face this side of the wall are already brimming with soft flowers.

The ‘fire’ tree in the front is already showing signs of regaining some of its earlier vigorous growth. The portion of the garden wall which had started to look naked is fast getting full of new green leaves on the creepers, in anticipation of the flowers which will adorn them in the coming months. The invasive creepers which still maintain the habit of getting into all places where they shouldn’t be going have been checked, disciplined and put in their place a few times already. Things are looking more or less in order.

At least for now.

The nature of life is such that a state which feels ‘orderly’ is actually quite temporary. Like an ever-changing, ever-growing garden, life takes its own course throwing all kinds of new experiences, new situations, new circumstances that the order soon gives way to a new kind of chaos. Life and time keep up their pace and continue to fill up our minds and hearts with all sorts of things, pleasant, happy, not so happy, sad, angry, frustrating, curious, repetitive, mechanical, useless, useful, all sorts. All this happens when we are busy living life, often subconsciously or unconsciously.

Result is that we are left with no choice but to consciously cut down some of the excessive, redundant and invasive stuff that begins to fill up that precious little space inside of us. The space we so dearly need to consciously grow beautiful things inside of us – beautiful thoughts, beautiful feelings. The space we need to empty out from time to time to make room for newer thoughts and newer feelings. The space we need to keep cultivating the best of us. Deeply, consciously, and in awareness.

From time to time we all need to undertake some ruthless and drastic cleaning up of the gardening space inside. We all need to cut out those old, over-grown, over-full branches which may be pulling down the whole tree of our life – outer and inner. Sometimes we have to do it out of our own choice, sometimes life throws a situation which compels us to cut down some stuff even when we may not be ready.

Life is ever-moving, ever-flowing. Newer experiences will come our way. That precious space inside will soon begin to get its new growth, new thoughts, new feelings. We have to keep a constant eye on them, giving space and freedom to some of them so that they begin to mature in their own way. But some others will need a bit stricter disciplining and controlling, so that they remain in their place and not get too invasive throwing out the balance and harmony of the garden inside.

Living. Gardening. The ‘ing’ suggests constant, persistent work. Always ongoing. Like a seeking. Seeking for newer harmony, greater balance, eternal beauty.

More on Lessons from the Garden 

Two Memories, Two Lessons on Light
Lavender Delicacy
What is a Verb Doing in a Garden?

About the author
Beloo donned the hats of school teacher, university professor and researcher for many years, and is now happy to be doing what she does best – learn. Living in Pondicherry for the last 7 years and working part-time as an online educator for a private university in the US. She devotes most of her time to studying the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, blogging, reading, gardening and just being. She blogs at http://letbeautybeyourconstantideal.blogspot.com and can be reached at beloome@gmail.com
    1. dotingmomdiary@gmail.com'

      This is so incredibly beautiful, Beloo. The voice in it comes through with such authenticity that it is heart-wrenching. I can only picture the dismay at watching those flowers being cut down. But, what a lovely lesson in every step of life. As long as we are open and receptive to experiences then we are in the state that we should always be. Amazing, timely, wonderful post :)

    2. Thanks Shailaja for your kind and generous words. Garden is indeed a great school for life and living. I just wish we can tune in more and more to the nature and learn from her. Appreciate your reading this.

    3. itsuma@gmail.com'

      Beloo, such a metaphorical post this was! We all need that pruning, some ruthless cutting much like a beautiful garden to keep our hearts forever in a healthy bloom. It is painful to let go some of our cherished belongings and memories but if they are blocking our way of growth, they must go.
      Loved the way you write!

    4. Thanks Uma for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the post :) I certainly agree that it is not an easy process to get rid of those inner ‘possessions’ etc. But then nothing worthwhile is ever easy, as they say. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughtful comment.

    5. rachna.parmar@gmail.com'

      A post about garden, watching flowers and food grow from scratch. I know the delight of watching and experiencing that. Love the life’s lessons woven delicately in the post.

    6. Wow! This was such an insightful post. I have been maitaininga small terrace garden since past 7 years and every time it’s that season to trim the branches, it pains. But yes, a few weeks and they bloom back making me smile to myself. But the way you have related this to life is simply awesome. Will go and read the rest of the posts in the series shortly.

      • Thanks Rekha for reading and for your kind words. I am so happy you enjoyed the post. Indeed a garden gives us so many joys – big and small, and gardening opens us up to so many insights – big and small.

    7. zephyr@cybernag.in'

      There is a life lesson waiting to be learnt in every activity. And I guess gardening is one of them that teaches us to keep our life in order, sometimes with love and at other times with strict discipline. It also teaches about life and death and so many lessons besides. Loved the post and sat for a while visualising the entire garden in my mind’s eye. Thank you for such an insightful post.

      • Thanks Zephyr for reading this post. I am so glad to hear such lovely and generous words from you. I agree completely everything, every activity, every experience can be a great opportunity to learn. If we can always remember to see it that way….which isn’t always easy because there are times when we just want to wallow and mope and do all those other things instead of seeing the situation as an opportunity to learn and move on. O well, maybe there is a lesson in some of that wallowing too :) Thanks again!

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