“How to get engaged with your yard when you think
you don’t have the time or the energy.”
It’s that time of year when the weather is finally cooling off and we are ready to be outside after a long hot summer. An obvious and necessary activity is pruning – to take care of our yards (“take care of” sounds so much more pleasant than “maintain”).
But how do we overcome the obstacles: our inertia, our lack of time, our not knowing where to start (overwhelm), our fear of pruning incorrectly? We’ve spent the money on getting our landscapes renovated, now how do we absorb this new sphere into our lives? What is the point of entry into the activity? How do we connect?
Usually at my last meeting with clients, after the job is almost completely built, the final thing I do is have a plant care meeting with them. I tell them the following things to inspire them to get out there:
CHUNK IT DOWN:
- Start off in small increments. Tell yourself “Just 10-15 minutes today.” Or I’m going to go out there and dead head my geraniums.” Or “I am going to go care for my roses.” Don’t say “I have to prune my yard today.” That may be too much.
- Make a specific goal for the day. Maybe just work on one plant species at a time, in one area at a time. You build on your successes when you FINISH one area or plant species. The beauty of this is that you get to really know that one plant.
- Learn one pruning technique at a time. How to do that? Watch an on line video on how to prune. Get a copy of Sunset Western Garden Book and read the pruning section in the back (I prefer the 8th edition, ISBN-13:978-0-376-03917-0.) Take a class. When you concentrate on one technique at a time, you feel confident. Obtain a small success and see the results of your mechanical movements on that one plant. Go back in a couple weeks and see what the result was of your work.
- Slip it in between other activities. No big deal.
MAKE YOUR MENTAL APPROACH POSITIVE:
- Develop an emotional connection.
- Think of the plants as friends of yours, thirsting for your attention! The relationship with the plants is a reciprocal one. You support them and they support you. When you have a bad day, you go out there, and they soothe, entertain, relax you. In return, you give them a haircut when they need it, get rid of those old snarly parts. Your pruning stimulates their hormones, telling them to grow! They love to be touched and will grow for you because you put your time in to the relationship.
- Be curious. Tell yourself “I am going to just go see how the flowers in the pots are growing. I wonder how they responded to what I did to them last week.”
- Don’t worry about perfectionism or mistakes (except don’t prune trees if you don’t know what to do). This creates inertia and procrastination.
- Don’t use money as a negative motivator. (“I spent all this money on my yard; I had better get out there!”) Use positive motivators instead.
Here are some philosophies and word tactics which you may find resonate for you:
- Pruning is fun!
- I’m learning something new. It’s another skill for my repertoire.
- This is relaxing. Being peaceful in my yard is who I want to be.
- This is a chance to engage with the earth and help it. I’m a part of the Universe. I can use all of my senses out here. Hear the birds. Feel the wind. Smell the rosemary after the rain. I have the right plants and am helping to create habitat. I’m helping!
- I’m teaching my children to have some primary experiences (instead of just be in front of a screen). This is wholesome. My kids just love the tactile plants!
- This is therapeutic. It makes me happy. The plants really cheer me up after a long day.
- This gives me something to have in common with my friends. I can even swap plants with them.
- I don’t even have to know the name of the plant to appreciate it.
- If I fall off the wagon and neglect it for a little while, I can just get back in easily.
- This is living zen for me.
- Boy, this is great physical exercise!
- I can really express myself in my yard. I can form the shape of my plants to suit myself. I love being contemporary — see how well I’ve hedged my shrubs and created that strong line? Or: I am nature-y; I like to let the plant express its natural shape (for example, Chinese fringe flower wants to arch).
- Seeing all this green is good for my brain.
MAKE IT YOUR GO-TO HOBBY!
Learn a few pruning techniques, experiment some, just get out there and try! I’ve seen clients who knew nothing about plants or pruning quickly learn the moves because THEY WANTED TO.
Figure out how to connect with it – what it means for you. Then set your intentions and make pruning a go to activity to help make you who you want to be! Eventually you may even jump out of bed because you can’t wait to get out there with your plants!