On Getting Old

In last Thursday's New York Times was an interview with Woody Allen (above, a statue shown in his Wikipedia entry -- let's not think about this as a garden ornament).

Much of what he said I've already forgotten; though it was interesting at the time. The following statement struck a cord, though:

How do you feel about the aging process?
Well, I’m against it. [laughs] I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again.

Now, I'm not sure whether I agree, and really, I'm much younger than he is, so I can't really comment without comparing apples and oranges (or Eschholzia Californica with Papaver orientale). But when it comes to plants, aging really is bad new in many cases. Take this Salvia Clevlandii (Cleveland sage).

Yes, just this spring, she was beautiful, green, enticing with her blue blossoms and heady fragrance (on the left in the photo below).

But she was hiding an ugly secret: under the attractive top layer of blooms and leaves was a tangle of branches that were either dead or had seen better days.

Not much better -- and having been planted at the same time -- was the Eriogonum fasciculatum (narrow-leaf buckwheat) right next to the salvia. It looked great behind the wine barrel water feature, but it was starting to invade the paths, the barrel, and the salvia.

So this weekend, I finally gathered my courage, my pruners, and my loppers and set to work. The first cuts were hard, but then I started pulling and cutting like a woman obsessed. The rule for salvias is usually to leave 1/3 of the plant, and I actually left even more in height. But I radically cut back in width. I did make sure some green remained, and gave the poor thing a thorough soaking with the hose afterwards. There, that's better. Now please, please don't die on me!

(As for the Eriogonum, I decided to wait until it's done blooming. A wise decision, and all the lizards that lived under the salvia appreciate shelter there for a little while longer.)


35?! How about 25? My favorite perspective on gaining wisdom as you age is that you don't get wiser; just that all the people who know you're an idiot have already died.
Queer by Choice said…
Looks like you did a great job on that Salvia!
Anonymous said…
I would rather be 35 again than 25! In fact, it was decided that 35 was the perfect age to be. I do hope your Salvia rewards the pruning with fresh new growth. Wouldn't it be nice if that worked on us as well? Well maybe not cutting, but something to renew our bodies, our minds we can refresh now and then with gardening. :-)
Susan Tomlinson said…
I can't speak for Woody or the plants, but as for myself, I think I've gotten better as I've gotten older. I know I've tried very hard to learn and grow all along, and what I know now as opposed to the age of 35--doesn't even compare.

Of course, I was kind of a dork at 35...
Carol said…
Well, I sure disagree with Woody. I do feel we can grow wiser and closer to our true selves, as long as we are honest with ourselves. We also are given more time to master our work... be it gardening, photography, writing, painting, boatbuilding or whatever. The outer shell thing is hardest and if our health fails... but like all plants who thrive in rich soil ... we can take care of our bodies and hope for the best. The alternative to growing old is not nearly as desirable Woody. It would be great if we could be divided and have more vigor to start anew... or have a good cutting back and grow back fresher. We will just have to be content with what we have and make the best of it. Love this post! ;>)
Country Mouse said…
I think about aging as I contemplate the three acres we have here. I'd like to build dry stone retaining walls along a winding path down the northern bowl-shaped valley that ends at the huge Douglas fir. I see myself at 80 maybe, adding a few boulders or bits of recycled concrete to the wall each day, still extending it to the goal, and tending a few of the plants on either side along the way. That's my good vision of aging. (Maybe by then I'll have finished this project that is taking time away from garden and blog right now!)
Christine said…
I'm not old enough to say anything insightful about aging, but Miss Winnifred Gillman should be quite grateful for your savagery!
I can't help but fall into a satisfying meditation while pruning. I guess it helps me not feel bad for the plants!
Good luck with the elective surgery on the plants. It's always an act of courage and faith in biological processes to prune hard. I did some severe shaping on a black sage I'd never pruned before. Still I guess I was of little enough faith that I stuck some of the choppings in pots, hoping that they'll root, just in case biology decides to forsake me...
Gail said…
A fun read! Spot on! I like the way I look at life now~but, I wouldn't mind having the body strength of I had at 40! I've been trimming back a fw plants, too. They look so much better and recover quicker then we think. gail