Posted by: graceunbound | June 24, 2008

Deadheads: A Garden Saga, Part 1

I think I have mentioned in past posts that plants and I have a somewhat rocky relationship. After being forced into manual labor as a child pulling weeds in our garden in the heat of summer I swore I was done with the whole garden thing. I had a house plant once; I think it was a philodendron or something like that. Something that is supposedly unkillable. I killed it. In our second apartment we had a small patch of flowers behind our back porch. At least, there would have been flowers except that I think I pulled all the flowers and left the weeds. That and there were spiders and other bugs in it so I kind of just let the weeds grow.

Suddenly last summer I decided that I needed a garden. I don’t remember being hit on the head, but clearly that is what must have happened. So my husband surprised me with a little three foot by five foot raised bed made from landscaping timbers and I planted tomato plants. (Well, first I killed some tomato plants, and then I went out and bought MORE tomato plants, but really, who’s counting?) My harvest was less than stellar, but they lived and for that I think I deserve credit.

So this year I expanded to a full garden. Twelve tomato plants (bought at differing intervals as the first victims died off). Two pepper plants (again, replace the four previous victims), squash, zucchini, and a row of peas and beans which are proving unkillable enough that next year I may plant a whole garden full of them. I also have another bed filled with sunflowers and zinnias. And with weeds, I think, but I can’t tell the difference between them and the things that are supposed to be there so I’m waiting for something to grow flowers so I know what doesn’t belong. I also have a small planter by the front door to our house. And that’s where the deadheads come in.

No, the Grateful Dead are not playing on my front porch. I’m talking about my flowers. They looked so beautiful when I planted them, pale pink, hot pink, purple, white, lavender. And then slowly the flowers turned brown and withered and I was left with green stuff that was ok but not a colorful palette of floral delight. The only thing doing great was the clover. (Yes, I deliberately planted a weed. No, I didn’t realize it when I planted it.) One day, as I stood there mourning the fact that I couldn’t even grow a decent flower for more than two weeks a little memory whispered from the deep recesses of my brain, “Deadhead them.” Ah, yes, from the year I planted petunias in a pot outside my apartment (they also died). So I began to pinch away at the brown and drying flowers, pruning away the part of the plant that was dead. And guess what I have today? More flowers!

You see the process of deadheading signals the plant to put out more flowers. As long as the flower hangs on to the dead parts, it isn’t going to display the beauty that is within it. Someone has to come along and prune the dead parts away. Sometimes I picture my life lately as being like that flower. Full of deadheads for a long time, things that I’ve hung on to that are holding me back from displaying God’s beauty. And along he comes, reaches in and says “Here, let me just prune that away, and that, and that.” Hey, that kind of hurts! What’s with the pinching, God? He smiles, “Just getting rid of the dead stuff, trust me on this one.” But, my dead stuff is ATTACHED to me. I’m attached to it. Once it was a flower, can’t I hang onto it?

Nope, flowers have their season, and sometimes so do parts of our lives. When they’re done we need to trust in the wisdom of God as he gently prunes them away so that new flowers can take their place; a display of his wisdom and glory.


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