Back in my pinafored days, my primary school teachers decided that allowing each class a small gardening trough outside our classrooms might cultivate in us, through the tending of plants, nurturing natures of our own. Shy, curious and rather prone to obsessions and personal projects even back then, I took to caring for the small trough with considerable elan. It suited me perfectly- I could carry out my mild agricultural experiments without any protest from my obliging subjects. These were mostly done during recess period after the clamour of students had subsided down the stairwells; in companionable silence, my fledgling lady’s finger plants watched as I mixed this and that into an old plastic container- crushed eggshells were a particular favourite due to the delightful crunchiness they lent to the mulch whilst their membraneous interiors looked appropriately nutritious.
Soon, those moments of calm would become one of the highlights of my young student life. Sometimes, one of my classmates would join me and we would pick happily at pestilent weeds, strip off dead leaves and bandage broken limbs with ice-cream sticks and raffia. Under the unrelenting tide of our attentions, what could our poor plants do but dutifully bear fruit and flower? These we steamed and ate with light soya sauce- I don’t believe I’d ever felt so ecstatic about slimy vegetables- and thus, my love affair with the plant was finally consummated.
Those nascent green longings have recently surfaced again- I find myself dragging mother and forbearing boyfriend on a crazy tree-hunting expedition in Singapore’s rural country; I find myself staring forlornly at pictures of beautiful golden raintrees on the web, abject in the knowledge that I may not tame nor contain their majesty in my modest garden. I now know, through the kind and learned instruction of online tutorials, how to prune trees with gentleness and minimal invasiveness- remove waterspouts, cross-branching and competing leads, cut after the branch collar or small potential side branches, angling away from the bud- always ensure that the natural shape of the tree is preserved, taking care that the tree has sufficient photosynthetic cover to produce food to support its growth.
This morning, in a burst of self-realisation, it dawned on me (on the MRT to work- inspiring place!) that my housekeeping style might be likened to that of gardening, or more accurately, pruning. My attitude towards mess can be quite adequately depicted as indulgent. However, when the mess starts assuming a life of its own (by this I don’t mean literally crawling with things– untidyness is not the same as dirtiness, may I caveat, and I cannot tolerate the latter), something within me unsheaths a gleaming pair of pruning shears and in a fevered spate of hyperproductivity and flashing metal, the hedges are renewed.
Who knew that gardening was such an instinctive trait? The hunt for a perfect tree continues. But in the meantime, it looks like the only pruning I’ll be doing will be inside my bedroom.