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By Cynthia Brian
“Be at War with your Vices,
at Peace with your Neighbours,
& let every New-Year find you a better Man.”
Resolutions, goals, a fresh start. Does January bring out your best efforts in wishful thinking as you embark on a new year or do you have the stamina and mindfulness to actually fulfill your gardening dreams? The famous English gardener and writer, Vita Sackville-West, wrote: “The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.” Although Vita died in 1962, her gardens at Sissinghurst survive as a national treasure, thriving with seasonal beauty and tender care from volunteers. I was fortunate enough to travel the grounds last year and marvel, even in the rain, at the expanse of her horticultural involvement. Vita’s quote definitely describes my personal gardening mantra as my motto has always been “Failure is fertilizer. Throw the mistake on the compost pile to grow a new garden.” In other words, mistakes, or malfattis as we say in Italian are always an experiment in something new…and maybe even a better creation. I don’t rest on my bay laurels but keep on striving.
One of my favorite global excursions is to visit gardens everywhere I travel. Exploring gardens, great and small, is a wonderful way to expand one’s horticultural intelligence while gathering ideas for one’s own plot. At the top of my resolution list for 2017 I’ve designated garden hopping as a must-do. In the past few weeks, I’ve had numerous emails from readers of this column with questions, comments, and aspirations as well as ambitious dreams for gardening in 2017. Here are ideas you may wish to employ this year as you dig a little and dream a lot!
- ⎫ Get your children and grandchildren engaged in gardening activities. Virtues, skills, and life itself are learned in the garden.
- ⎫ Be brave. Experiment more. Worry less. There are no brown thumbs.
- ⎫ Plant more seeds to watch the wonder of sprouting.
- ⎫ Grow more vegetables and herbs in your pots or potager for a healthier plant to plate palate. Consume, share, preserve to eliminate waste.
- ⎫ Photograph your garden often and keep records of what blooms when, what works where, and what you want to edit.
- ⎫ Install a water-saving irrigation system.
- ⎫ Donate extra produce to a food bank.
- ⎫ When time is limited, hire help.
- ⎫ Compost, compost, compost. (see composting recipe below)
- ⎫ Visit botanical gardens wherever you travel.
- ⎫ Encourage pollinators to take up residence by planting and offering habitat that attract them. Birds, bees, bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies are precious protectors.
- ⎫ Eliminate insecticides and pesticides. Research companion planting.
- ⎫ Mulch more to reduce weeds, keep the soil warm or cool depending on the weather, and stop soil erosion.
- ⎫ Take a class to expand your knowledge.
- ⎫ Be more realistic.
- ⎫ Find interesting outdoor accents to use in the landscape like vintage windows, doors, or Victorian gazing balls.
- ⎫ Add one or more water elements.
- ⎫ Start saving special seeds.
- ⎫ Propagate from cuttings.
- ⎫ Plant a garden or pots in a patio for the first time.
- ⎫ Add a new rosebush.
- ⎫ Plant a cutting garden for creating beautiful bouquets year round.
- ⎫ Sow a path of fragrance with lavender, jasmine, honeysuckle, or other sweet-smelling shrubs.
- ⎫ Become more aware of the natural world by paying attention to the sounds, smells, and sights.
- ⎫ Make your garden drought tolerant with succulents.
- ⎫ Resolve to utilize organic gardening methods.
- ⎫ Begin keeping a journal of your outdoor endeavors.
- ⎫ Use tropical plants indoors as air purifiers as well as décor focal points.
- ⎫ Enjoy your garden more, slave less. Spend at least 15 minutes every day admiring your beautiful handiwork in conjunction with nature.
Since getting in shape or losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution that is rarely kept, remember that gardening provides an excellent workout with the digging, tilling, weeding, raking, mowing, moving, planting, and climbing. Plus gardening is great fun. My hope for you is that you will adopt one or more of these tips as your gardening promise for the year. Be enterprising. Do things better than you ever did before. Be optimistic. Be the STAR you are.
As we take a moment to reflect on the past and look forward to the future, share your gardening dreams for 2017. Email me, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com.
Cynthia Brian’s Garden Guidelines for January
- ⎫ Compost Recipe: Keep a bucket with a lid on it in the garage or other storage area to fill with your kitchen scraps, shredded newspaper, coffee grinds, tea bags, fish bones (no meat products), and egg shells. Dump daily in an outdoor bin or pile. Add leaves and other brown materials, grass and plant clippings, and garden waste. Keep moist. Turn often with a spade or pitchfork. When the material looks and feels like a damp chocolate cake mix with an aroma of the earth, spread in your beds.
- ⎫ With the flu and colds that seem to be ubiquitous, make sure to keep lots of citrus on hand, especially oranges and lemons which have a high concentration of vitamin C, citric acid, calcium, iron, fiber, and B complex vitamins. Squeeze lemon juice on salads, vegetables, meat, and, of course, in your water to keep you hydrated. Even cut flowers benefit from drops of lemon juice in the vase, helping the water to travel from the stems to the flowers. Scatter the peels on any acid loving plants in your garden including roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, and fuchsias as a natural fertilizer.
- ⎫ It’s time to do your heavy pruning on your roses. Cut out any dead wood. Prune roses to about knee height. Although many people assume that roses are fussy, they really are quite tolerant providing months of luscious blooms.
- ⎫ Buy and plant bare-root roses, berries, vines, and fruit trees now following the instructions on the packaging.
- ⎫ Spray an application of dormant spray on peaches and other fruit trees to kill overwintering insects.
- ⎫ Peruse catalogues for ideas for spring and summer flowers.
- ⎫ Make fragrant potpourri from cut flowers.
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing! Happy, Healthy, Auspicious New Year!
Dig a little, dream a lot!
The Goddess Gardener
StarStyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at http://www.StarStyleRadio.net
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.