The grateful deadheader


The Deadhead Basket (© Huffygirl)

I’m going around the  garden with my deadhead basket in hand, gently snipping or pulling off spent blooms. This is my most soothing time of day. I AM the grateful deadheader – the one who pulls and snips off dead flowers, so the plant can bloom anew. I wish I had coined this phrase, grateful deadheader, but I can’t take credit. Years ago I read an article in a gardening magazine about a couple with extensive gardens, and how they divided up the work to maintain such a huge landscape. The wife pointed out that she did the deadheading and was thus the grateful deadheader. The term struck a chord – I’d never thought of deadheading as something to be grateful for. It seemed like thankless, constant work. In fact for years I purposely avoided planting anything that needed deadheading to thrive, thinking my time was much too important to spend it bringing out the dead. But, if you don’t want to deadhead, you’re severely limited in what you might plant in your garden. Begonias, Impatiens, any lazy plant where the dead blooms just fall off – these I  find too uninspired and prosaic for my garden.

Petunia transformed into a dramatic spiller. (© Huffygirl)

So, I decided to try it. I pulled out an old basket and an inexpensive pair of scissors, and left them  by the back door where I could grab them easily. And I started deadheading. Whenever I had a few minutes, I’d creep around the garden, clipping, pulling, filling my basket with dead blooms. Eventually, two things happened. My gardens really, well, blossomed. And I relished in the quiet moments I would snatch here and there to perform a task so mundane, yet so important, Why this is soothing, I still don’t know. When I’m going from plant to plant, tenderly checking for dead blooms, I get the same feeling I used to have when sneaking in to peek at my sleeping children. That sense of quiet nurturing. Plants produce flowers as their seeds; once the seeds are produced, the plant feels its work is done. Seeds ready to go, no need to put out any more energy. But clip off the seeds, the plant says “Oh, my seeds are gone, I need to produce more” and voila’ – the plant thrives, blooming like crazy, filling out, adding branches. Do not our children do the same with quiet daily nurturing? So deadhead I will. And gratefully.

Deadheaded zinnias grow from a spindly stem to a multi-branched bush. (© Huffygirl)

© Huffygirl 2011

(Disclaimer: In no way does Huffygirl mean to offend persons who plant begonias, impatiens and other self-deadheading flowers.)

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