When I first started gardening, I was timid with my new plants. I would very gently ease them out of their nursery pots, cutting away at any plastic that was bound too tightly. I would carefully tease apart the roots, unwinding them from their circular pot-shaped path and tenderly place the new acquisition in its meticulously prepared hole. Then I would water and wait, assured that the foliage would soon attain the glorious heights featured in the magazines.
Sometimes I lucked out and the plant survived.
But, more often than not, those early attempts at gardening failed. The plants would appear to thrive for a period of time and then they would begin to wither and die.
I didn’t understand. After all, I had selected the right plants for the conditions. I prepared the soil. I watered judiciously. I babied the plant.
I thought I was doing everything right.
But still they failed to thrive.
Throughout this time, I kept trying. New plants. New locations. And finally, a new nursery. I discovered a discount seller that offered small plants at amazing prices. I made a shopping list, covered the interior of my car in blue tarps and came home with over 100 individual plants. It was impossible to baby them all. There was no way I could gently tease the overgrown roots from the plastic pots without damage. My new strategy was to squeeze or thump the pot to release the soil and then to slide the new plant on its side on the bare soil. Then, instead of carefully unwinding the roots, I would use my trowel to quickly make four clean, vertical cuts along the root ball before placing the plant in its new home. The tender loving care was replaced with a quick message that the plant was no longer bound to its pot. The roots were told to spread. To explore. To anchor and find sustenance from the surrounding soil.
I watered and I waited. And the plants grew. And grew. Not one fell victim to the precedent of early growth followed by slow death. Just to be sure that the results were not due to some factor related to the nursery, I applied that same planting technique to plants acquired from other sources and the results were equally as positive.
I came to realize that my early attempts were misguided; the gentle unwinding of the roots was not a strong enough message to the plant. When I pulled up the struggling foliage, I found that the roots had resumed their former pot bound growth pattern, becoming a congested gnarled cylindrical knot, incapable of providing the plant with the nourishment it needed. The boundary was no longer present, yet the plants acted as though they were still constrained.
Do you ever feel stuck?
Do you feel constrained by perceived boundaries?
Do you ever feel like you’re growing in circles?
Are you pot bound in your own life?
In retrospect, I can see this pattern in my former marriage. My world became too small, too constrained. I was looking for nourishment and support within a small space. The divorce was more battle axe than trowel upon my exposed roots, but it certainly served to send me the message that it was okay to spread. To grow. To leave the perceived security of the known.
We are only pot bound when we believe that we are limited by our perceptions and beliefs. When we are afraid of growing too far and too fast. Sometimes it takes a strong message to release our roots from their accustomed path. Sometimes it takes some injury and pain to shock the system into a new way of being.
Don’t fear the cut of the trowel; it’s just the universe sending you the message that it’s okay to grow.