Dentist Adopts Garden Hygiene

My dentist was keeping me in the dark.

It wasn’t his dental practice, per se. It was his gardening practices. He had allowed the garden in front of his office to become so unruly and overgrown that the bushes and trees completely blocked the windows—and virtually all the natural light.

I offered him a deal:  “I’ll keep following your dental hygiene advice if you’ll try to follow good garden hygiene,” I said. “I’ll even get you started.”

“Will it mean I won’t have to worry about having everything pruned all the time?” Once I assured the dentist that, yes, it will mean that, he smiled in agreement. It was hard to see them in the shadows, but I could just barely make out the staff behind the front desk giving the proposal an encouraging thumbs-up.


The shrubs must have been beautiful when they were first planted, but after 20 years, they had become overgrown, diseased and damaged from too much pruning at the wrong times of year.

Like good dental hygiene, good garden hygiene is just following practices that will maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases. But before anyone could practice good hygiene in this garden, I’d have to scale it back and get it in healthier condition.

In progress

We pulled out tons of sick, misshapen and dying shrubs, left some of the healthier ones and relocated others. Over time, those that we left were transformed into strong and healthy plants, with room to breathe and spread their roots. Now, maintenance is just a matter of a little weeding a few times a year and light pruning and fertilizing if needed.


Even though the big holly tree wasn’t in great shape—literally or figuratively—I didn’t want to take it out. It adds depth and character to the office’s front entrance, and it provides a lovely view from inside, too.

The ailing semi-circle of hollies weren’t doing the garden any favors, though, so they were removed. They were victims of poor garden hygiene:  planted too close together, pruned improperly, hosting and spreading disease.

In Progress

Little by little, we’ve been patiently thinning out the holly, selectively removing some of the interior branches so light and air can get through to the center. This is part of good garden hygiene, creating conditions that help plants stay healthy. We’re also allowing the holly to grow naturally (so its friends will stop teasing it). Doesn’t it just look happier?

It’s taking a couple of years to transform this tree, but next year it will be beautiful. It will also be loaded with beautiful berries.

In Progress

So…the office garden looks a little sparse right now, but since I put the right amount of plants in the right places—another principle of good garden hygiene—it will fill in some over time. And it won’t ever be necessary to take such drastic measures again.

At my last check-up, the staff commented on how nice it’s been to have the sun shining in the windows. The dentist and the patients were all smiles, too, which is exactly how it should be at a dentist’s office. 🙂

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