Cutting Back: Part the Second. Being also a gesture towards a book review

And now for something a little bit different: the text outside of captions is verbatim what I just wrote in my journal before sitting to my computer. The partly buried book review is of Leslie Buck's wonderful memori: Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto.

Dec 30 2017 6:35 am Saturday
     Life is like a leaking sieve, a fishing net with holes and, of course, a boat with growing leaks.
     Felt sad taking down that spicebush yesterday and still unsure whether such drastic action was warranted. 

The spice bush next to a trellis by our front door, late May 2016.
Calycanthus Occidentalis is not locally native.
"If planted in shade and given regular water
Spice Bush can be trained onto a trellis as a wine wall."
(from this Las Pilitas page) So that's my general idea, and I think I'll try again.

Sat and looked and poked and trimmed and then went aw F*** it.

The same spicebush yesterday, in winter garb.
Now being overshadowed by a volunteer ceanothus, a few years old.

How do you prune a mess like this? Old and new stems crossing.
I sat and looked at it a while (note another volunteer ceanothus on the left!) and read the book: Care and Maintenance of Southern California California Native Plant Gardens, Bart O'Brien et al:

"Pruning season: winter months. Needs little to no annual pruning. Watch for and remove occasional crossing branches. Remove them as necessary.
Older plants that have become tangled masses may be coppiced in late fall or early winter."
"Coppicing: the cutting of a woody plant or tree to the ground or to 6" or less stubs."

I was a bit saddened to notice this large fruit, empty and hollow now.
I had not noticed it when it was ripe.
Maybe I could have grown a replacement from seed.

The poignant leaf.

The domineering gardener.
See the coppiced bush in my shadow there?
I need to take down that one stump a bit more I think - just need the right tool.

The new look. Temporarily.
The straggly stuff on the wire frame behind the wood frame is Dutchman's Pipevine
Aristolochia californica. It will grow back - I'll clean off all that dead stuff.
It grows too well where I live, though not locally native.
People grow it to encourage the return of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.

     Especially [felt ambivalent] since the shrub I was privileging over the spicebush is an ambiguous one, likely a seed of Dark Star ceanothus, that reverted to one or other, or "favored"--as in "he favors his mother's side"--one parent heritage over the other. Because of all its buds. Like being unable to not love the baby cuckoo. Ambiguous heritage. I felt damned if I did or didn't.

Ceanothus 'Dark Star' (C. impressus x C. papillosus var. roweanus)
Taken March, 2012
I loved this shrub and so did all the insects. Then I learned about hybridization
between local natives (we have two species) and this one.
Reader, I killed it.
Nearly killed me, doing that.
The local species vulnerable to hybridizing would be C. papillosus.
So I don't know if what I've got volunteering are straight locals,
or hybrids
or seeds favoring one or other of the parent plants of Dark Star.

Ceanothus Dark Star - closer up
Note the tiny leaves. Taken March, 2012

Ceanothus 'Dark Star' yet closer up
a magnet for pollinators. Taken March, 2012

Mystery volunteer ceanothus. Taken this morning (Dec. 30, 2017).
blooming already! And those dark blooms with yellow bits, remind me of Dark Star.

Same volunteer Ceanothus. Should be C. papillosus
But something about it makes me suspicious.
Early blooming (but could be because it's in a sheltered spot (doesn't get water).
Leaves seem not as long or as bumpy as the local wild ones.
More compact growth habit

The local volunteer. Those flowers just look more like Dark Star a little bit.

Bloom and foliage of Ceanothus papillosus, growing natively where I live,
taken January 30, 2012.
None of the known natives (planted before Dark Star) are blooming or even budding yet.
Of course it's been a dry season this season to be sure and they are in the dry reaches of the property.

So I favored bees and abundance of the pollen they take from ceanothus -- and beauty, in the immediate sensory present, over memories of the delightful spice bush blossoms.

     And thinking about Cutting Back and a Spartan culture of craft and hard work and lifetime dedication, almost like the gardeners themselves in their traditions embody the small, exquisitely "styled" pines that have received twice yearly needle plucking and naturalistic pruning for 350 years.

Cover of Cutting Back showing a styled pine. I met Leslie at a writing workshop.
She's a lovely person, an esthetic pruner and garden designer,
and I enjoyed our conversations.
Her book is a wonderful, honest, and frank memoir
of her time in Japan.
And evaluating Leslie's writing, which feels artless, but which I'm sure she approached imbued with that same -- spirit.

     And Grant's soldiers, transformed in days by discipline and vision

And my novel. Plucking and replucking words from sentences.
     And there's my blog post, in one gestural page -- the other side of Japanese culture -- the expressive gesture of calligraphy, performed in a vibrating moment of uncertain duration.

"Gratitude" calligraphy by Gerow Reece

"Moon" calligraphy by Gerow Reece,
gift to my son-in-law and his family. Photo taken this morning.
Hanging above front door of their home.

The journal, FYI. My calligraphy is starkly wanting.

The journal page 2.

This morning, before I started on this post,
looking at the treasures on my desk, train and doll figure given to me
by grandchildren.
Dried fruit by nature.

I hope to see some more blooms from that coppiced spicebush plant (Calycanthus occidentalis)
But I hope too I'll keep the plant pruned and semi-espaliered to fit the space it has.
Can't just let something as lovely, and as spicy, as this go!