When your botanical hero is coming to coming to help you with your pruning, you’d just better rise to the occasion. At least, as best you can. Especially if you find yourself in a position where you are way, way underqualified. I’ve always dreamed of being a greenskeeper (ala Bill Murray), but the reality is a little more intimidating.
For me, this notable and expert arrival meant a couple of days of careful pruning and cleaning of the yard, not unlike when you’re on vacation and clean up the hotel room for the cleaning crew– you don’t want them to know just how bad it was, and you cringe at giving them too much grunt work. I did my best to clear out the dead wood, low-lying branches, and obviously necessary cuts, working to the full extent of my questionable pruning abilities. I made sure my still-shiny Felco #2s were in my pocket, and that I was fully hydrated and appropriately attired. I arranged some branches on the ground, laid all of the tools out, and tried to look busy.
And then, it happened. The sun burned down as ArborSam stepped off his steed and strode through the green grass. Well actually, he drove up in a Ford and needed to find some parts to fix his saw. But still. I tried to squint my eyes just like him and walk with his purposeful-yet-relaxed gait as we moved around the yard, naming plants and noting the concerns of each. He was favorably disposed toward nearly everything, which was a huge relief. Now if only I could remember half of the names and instructions and stuff.
After the tour, we stepped up to my nemesis: an azalea which was the size of a Suburban, but which needed to be more like a Miata. Kind of a challenge, even for ArborSam. But he was only daunted for a few minutes before he started cutting. Note to self: a giant loppers (one of my favorite tools) doesn’t find its way into ArborSam’s hand. Instead, he makes surgical cuts on smaller branches with his Felco, or takes gentle strokes with his Japanese pull saw on larger branches. In fact, he makes three cuts: one to kerf the bottom of the branch, another to make the complete cut from above, and finally, a delicate cut at the very stem of that particular appendage. I mean, I’ve made rougher cuts on priceless pieces of hardwood. Amazing.
We did an artful job on the azalea, leaving a nice shape, a very promising future, and even a few blooms for this season. In the process, I learned a little bit about gestalt, wore out my forearms, and was less worried that I was covered in Poison Ivy. Just before he rode off into the sunset, I watched in wonder as he scrambled up into an oversized (umm, what’s it called, again?) to cut out some impossibly intertwined deadness at the top.