Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It is a far far better thing...

There I was this morning, deadheading the daisies, and all of a sudden I was thinking of my first romantic hero when I was a book-mad teenage boy: Sidney Carton from Charles Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities'. A grim connection indeed, when you think of poor Sidney's fate, climbing the steps to the guillotine in the Terror of the French Revolution, but I could see the connection. Sidney's final, noble words are the immortal quote: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

He was my romantic ideal then, sacrificing his life by substituting himself for the man who was intended for the guillotine, so the woman Sidney loved could live her life with the man she loved, who was, alas, not Sidney. (I don't think I was doing all that well with the chicks when I was 14, so I must have looked upon myself as a punily similar tragic figure.)

Where was I? That's right, deadheading the daisies. (These tangents of thought do pop up rather often while pottering about the garden.) It is a far, far better thing that the daisy plants lose a few fading flowers, as that's the only way for the show to go on. *Sniff*

The party is over for this bedraggled former
beauty. As far as the daisy is concerned, it has
done its bit and formed seeds (flowering is just
a means to an end, but the real purpose of
flowering is, of course, to set seed). As a gardener
my task is to thwart that ambition, to deny it its
seed. The only option for the thwarted flowering
plant is to try and try again, by sending up more
flowers. And that's what deadheading is all about.

There's a mixture of flowers in bloom and faded ones here, so
the trick is to cut off the dead 'uns without hacking down the lot.

This is my 'Sidney Carton' moment where a few
perfectly upright, decent blooms still in flower
get caught up in the revolution. I do try to be
accurate and neat in my snipping, but there are
always some casualties. (That's where the 'far
far better thing' bit popped into my head.) 

I trimmed back this little daisy completely, about two or three
weeks ago, and look at it now. Flowers aplenty, more coming
through. Hopefully that'll be the case with the others.

Deadheading annual flowers is more of a time-consuming chore than the cheerful monthly gardening magazine 'to do' lists admit, but it's amazing how well it works. These annual plants truly do live hard and die young – just a few months from beginning to end sometimes – but if you don't deadhead them they die far too young. With some judicious deadheading you can get them to put out two or three full flushes in their short stay here on Earth. 

FInally, thinking about poor old Sidney Carton and that wonderful book by Dickens, I really ought to also mention the movies of 'A Tale of Two Cities'. I read the book first, and loved it, but then I discovered the 1935 version of the film starring Ronald Coleman, and watched it several times. If I was going to be a tragic, romantic hero back then, I was going to do it Ronald Coleman style. 

Fortunately for me, I never got the gig as tragic teenage hero, but I have lived long enough to also discover the 1958 Dirk Bogarde version of 'Tale of Two Cities', and I'm sorry, Dirk: while you're a fine actor with many great films to your credit, I'm afraid that your version is not a patch on Ronald Coleman's. 

I haven't thought of 'Tale of Two Cities' nor of Ronald Coleman for years, but thanks to my little patch of daisies I have mentally dusted off my Dickens shelf. Gardening's like that, you never know what it's going to make you think of next.

And now, only if you can bear to watch some romantic tragedy while garden blog browsing, is the final scene from Ronald Coleman's 'Tale of Two Cities'.


Ngeun said...

Sounds like a great book & story Jamie. Thanks for the tip, I'll look out for it. What a clever procedure deadheading is; one notable guillotine scene is at the end of Perfume.

Ngeun said...

Correction; there is no guillotine scene at the end of Perfume; it was death by axeman.