Tuesday, April 17, 2012


   At season’s end, gardeners view their perennials with an eye marking development and appeal. One makes notes with ideas for the spring.
Writers do the same. At the end of story you make notes for the next story or maybe you realize you need more re-write.
   If a plant didn’t do well in a spot, I investigate the possible reasons for stunted growth or minimal flowering.  With a new purchase, a plant I’ve never grown before, I read the planting label, clarify the label with someone at the plant shop, and follow suit. If I’m purchasing a replacement plant, I look at the area where its predecessor died.
If an idea didn’t do well in one spot, perhaps I needed to move it to another location in the story.
   Was there too much shade to expect good growth? Perhaps the Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud grew too quickly and overshadowed the small Dogwood.
   Was the soil too alkaline or too clayey? Either amend the soil with an additive or dig out the clay and haul in better soil.
   Did the neighbors overspray of the weed-killer they use to manage their side, land on your plant? How does one amend a neighbor?
Maybe it was a great plot twist, a slender clue dropped gently into the story, but the characters were moving too quickly and trampled over it without stopping to discover the gift at their feet. Perhaps the story line had already developed so strongly that the twist seemed insignificant and was overlooked. But it was a great twist! What to do?
   This spring, I reviewed my transplant from last fall, a variegated red twig Dogwood bush. It seemed easier to move the bush than to move the larger shrubs and trees.
It’s always easier to move a small piece of business (regardless how wonderful) than move an entire story. Hard to move a grown ‘tree’ like location. Easier to send your protagonist out of town to follow up a clue and drop your seedling there.
   This would be the dogwood’s second move. Its first location was such a good choice that it grew profusely but I neglected to take into account that its growth would soon block the already narrow opening to the yard which gave access to my husband on the riding mower. If he couldn’t use that pass through to get from front to back his mowing pattern would be altered. And that’s another story!!
Every now and then a secondary character or sub-plot develops so quickly that you don’t notice that they are about to become an impediment to the story. The story line starts revolving around them. The pattern of the story could change drastically. That character or sub-plot has to move to the back of the stage.
   I moved the dogwood to a mulched area. I gave it two years to re-establish. During those two years, my gorgeous weeping shrub which grew slowly (partly because the top portion had been cracked in an ice storm) took hold and grew amazingly well in those two years.
The risk of moving that rising character is that they might become over shadowed in another part of the story. It’s all about balance and finding where each character belongs and thrives within the story.
   The dogwood survived the transplant and has new shoots. I suspect that in addition to needing sun it also needed different soil. Before the dogwood lived in the mulch I had planted a Callicarpa in the same spot. It languished until I transplanted it to the main garden. In the last two seasons it has developed the style of growth it’s known for and blooms beautifully. I believe that the soil under the mulch is tainted or at best stripped of nutrients. I’ve decided to leave the area to the redbud.
When a story or character doesn’t fit in the spot you thought would be perfect, you have to move on and let what works in that spot develop on its own. That just may be the thriller novel that works itself up from ground into your head. Or a pretty spot to put a bench.

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