Prune your darlings

When I’m wondering how much to prune a plant — if I’m thinking I’d like to cut a lot off but am not sure —  I tend to hear a grandparental voice saying ‘Cut it right back, dear.’ I’ve killed plants through over- and under-watering, I’ve lost them to insects, but I don’t recall that I’ve ever lost one through pruning, and I’ve certainly revitalised a couple by getting medieval on them with the secateurs. (Here, btw, is an explanation of how pruning actually works.)

I recently pruned my mussaendas, which were getting very rangy and giving me a view of little but their spindly trunks as they shot up for the sky. I’ve always been a bit conservative with how much I cut them, but this time I went hard, after receiving assurances that it would do them good, and sure enough they’re now budding all over. To hide the appearance of their stick-like remnants I’ve moved the gardenias behind them — I don’t think the gardenias were getting enough sun anyway, and they make a nice green bushy filler when they’re not in flower.

I thought my trumpet creeper was dead, so cut it down to the ground and tried to pull the roots out — twice — but chickened out rather than risk damaging the roots of the plant it shares the pot with, in case they’re entwined.* Well, it isn’t dead — the stump is sprouting, hooray. (*In most cases I wouldn’t worry so much, but the other plant is the easter lily vine. I’ve killed one of them repotting it and when I repotted this one it dropped most of its leaves and sulked for a year — it’s only flowering again now. In absence of other knowledge I’m assuming it’s sensitive about its roots.)

I also think one of the trees planted in the ground might be dead. The landlady suggested cutting it back to its trunk and seeing if it sprouts. I decided to try something less drastic first and cut off large amounts of its branches (it’s a spindly tree, within my lumberjacking capacities) which all looked dead. I did run into plenty of dead wood, but also some hints of green. So I’ll see what happens, and if no joy, cut lower.

The potted allamandas weren’t a great success growing over the porch — I found them hard to wrangle and they ended up as an untidy bundle of sticks with flowers at the far ends. So I’ve cut them right back, dear, and moved the bougainvillea to porch duty, with one of the strophanthus for a friend.


Another Plague Doctor

I’ve got another slightly discounted Plague Doctor bird on Etsy. He has a little blob of metal in his eye — maybe a plague boil?

I’m picking up new stock from the foundry on Saturday. Can’t remember which pieces, though there should be some snails.



Neeble: the last little bit. Expected to take 2 hours, actually takes all day and half the night.
Neeblefutting: completing the neeble.

Everyone in the fridge before going to the foundry:


Strophanthus gratus

One of my favourite plants. I’ve got one growing as a vine and one trimmed into a bush — they’re just flowering now. The flowers smell like roses.


Staying Fresh

Now and then a scene just comes and hardly has to be altered — it starts fresh and stays fresh. That’s nice of course, but it’s not that common — or not for me, anyway.

I keep multiple drafts backed up and often revisit early ones to try and salvage material as the needs of the story force changes on the writing. I’m all too capable of wandering miles away from a first draft then coming back closer to it after realising I didn’t need to wander so far — but I probably needed to see what was over there in order to decide to come back. (And I might find something useful over there, too.)

I always fear that redrafting will produce a laboured product — maybe an odd fear for someone who likes fancy language, but there’s fresh fancy and stale fancy. The reader’s going to find it how they find it, but it has to seem fresh to me. I like to keep dialogue pretty close to its original state, if plot permits. Sometimes the characters come up with lines that are obviously better, but I seldom feel compelled to extensively revise dialogue. But I almost always rewrite descriptions, sometimes many many times. Sometimes the right words don’t come until I’m tired or doing something else. And I find that action scenes can ask for a lot of revision, though that’s a bit different as it’s as much about choreography as aesthetics. When I was writing TEC I did a fair bit of climbing around on furniture trying to work things out.

I’ve been redrafting this story a lot. Additions to plot give me no choice. However much the story may be improved, I always feel a certain regret for the lost first draft. But onwards and upwards. I’m enjoying it.

Back to dialogue for a moment — I was having trouble writing some lines. Then I imagined Yul Brynner saying them, and some better words came. Whether it was the added persona or the cadences of a distinctive voice, something helped. So next time I’m stuck with lines I’ll borrow an actor.


A New Year Visitor

Went outside this morning and found this delightful little serpent in a tree. Neighbours say it isn’t dangerous. I think it’s an Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina). Mildly venomous but not considered a threat to humans.








WIP Rabbits

Morning, evening, midnight…


Posted in Art |

All the Snowmen

British Channel 4’s 1982 animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, with David Bowie doing the introduction. (That barn owl…)