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Lessons learned from a good pruning
Senior moments
Rich DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. - photo by File photo

Any good gardener knows that pruning is essential for growing just about anything. When you prune correctly, you encourage healthy growth and flowering (in the case of flowering plants), as well as good looks.

For most shrubs and trees, it helps to prune at the right time. Some are best pruned in winter, some right after flowering.

I can remember when we bought our first house in Lake Worth, Florida, soon after we married. My wife and I purchased an older home that needed a lot of TLC, and the landscape was in real trouble as well.

We did have one plant or tree, I’m not sure what it was, that the most gorgeous flowering specimen I’ve ever seen. I learned soon from my mom, the flower and plant expert, that it was a bougainvillea.

Bougainvilleas are flowering machines. You can’t beat them for an explosion of color. If you live in a temperate climate, and we did, and desire a year round floral fiesta, then bougainvillea is the plant for you.

Depending on the variety, it can be grown on a trellis or over an arbor, against a building or fence, in containers, as a hedge or ground cover, in tree form and as a bonsai. I guess that is why we did not know what it was because it looked like this giant bush of thorns and flowers.

Soon after we got settled in the house, my parents came to visit us. Mom was intrigued by the massive flowering bougainvillea next to the house. She commented that it needed pruning.

Now mom was the past president of the local garden club where I grew up. She was a master flower show judge and even taught me a thing or two about flower arranging. So I knew she was the right person to tackle the job.

I handed her the pruning shears and walked back into the house. Close to an hour later, she called us to come out and see how she had trimmed the flaming ball of flowers.

To my shock, what was left was one spindly tree with just a few branches and almost no flowers. I remember the first words out of my mouth: "Mom, you killed it!"

She responded quite abruptly and defended her actions, "I didn’t kill it, I shaped it."

I couldn’t help but wonder what shape she was going for. Was it giant flower on a stick? Or maybe she was trying for the bent-over, withered-and-worn-out tree look. I seriously could not believe my eyes.

My wife just chuckled and reminded me that she was my mother. "I know she is my mother," I thought. What does that have to do with anything?

Fast forward several months and the masterpiece my mother painted had actually flowered into this beautiful tree that graced the landscaping of our home. People would walk by and remark, "What a beautiful bougainvillea tree. How did you get it to grow like that?"

To this day, every time I tell that story I get a wonderful feeling and chuckle to myself, "That’s my mom."

Mom knew something that neither of us did as a young married couple – that a good pruning every now and then is healthy. You can apply that to just about every facet of your life.

Sometimes we look at our circumstances and wonder what is happening. Maybe, just maybe, my friends, God is pruning us for something even better.

Contact DeLong at 912-531-7867 or

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