Some New Year's resolutions

Sunday, 09 January 2011

One of the Abutilon axed

Happy New Year to all! I hope that everyone's garden is thriving. It is that time of year to be making New Year's resolutions, and I have been trying to think of a few to guide me for the year ahead. Whether or not I will be able to follow them remains to be seen! One thing I have in mind is to reduce the number of pots in my 'pot holding area' - an area of ground at the top of the garden where newly purchased plants and plants I have propagated from cuttings sit ... and sit ... often for a very long time, years even, as they await a spot in a border to be planted out. Requiring daily watering in these hot months, they silently reproach me as they remain there, trapped in a pot-bound condition, totally reliant on me to meet their basic needs. The fact is that my garden is now very full of plants and there are basically no spaces left for these poor things. Some are in such poor condition that they are only fit for the compost heap, and so I have been hardheartedly evaluating each and every plant to see if they are worth keeping, and if so, where they can be planted. The lucky ones that have been found a place seem to breathe a sigh of relief as they are eased out of their pots and tucked into the ground, allowing them to spread their roots and fend for themselves at last, making me feel even more of a monster for keeping them in captivity for so long. The pot holding area is gradually being reduced in size - and a subsidiary resolution is not to acquire any new plants this year: a tall order for a greedy gardener, so it will be interesting to see if I can stick to this one!

Salvia involucrata x karwinskii, a large plant that I have recently removed

Another vow I have made is to evaluate each and every plant already in the garden, to see if it actually deserves to be grown. Plants with a very short flowering period, those which take up a lot of space, and those that require a lot of maintenance in terms of cutting back or vigilance against pests, are under the microscope. It is often hard to axe a plant we have grown for so long, but in any garden, a plant has to earn its keep. Some of the really large Salvia specimens I have, alas, had to 'let go' - a difficult decision for plants that have been part of my life for such a long time, but they really do take up an inordinate amount of space and require a lot of pruning. I have also had to be ruthless with several Abutilon shrubs: the nasty leaf-rolling caterpillar seems to be getting more aggressive every summer, reducing some of my plants to defoliated skeletons. Some forms seem to be more immune than others to attack, so I am concentrating on those ones. Other plants for the chop are those that really don't suit our climate. The bonus of this evaluation process is that it frees up room to plant out some of the poor potted plants!

A further pledge I have made to myself is to spend time in the garden every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. In my younger years, nothing short of a whole day spent in the garden seemed worthwhile, but with competing demands on my time these days, that remains something of a daydream. Quite a lot can be achieved in half an hour, I have found, and it restores peace to the soul in a busy life.

My garden journal for the years 1995 to 1997

A final goal is to resurrect my garden journal, which I began almost 30 years ago and kept diligently until recent times. The early entries do make for hilarious reading, at a time when I grandly thought I could reproduce an English country estate in my suburban block, and was under the delusion that any plant I wanted to grow would grow. The harsh lessons of reality were recorded over the years in my many failures - I always wrote down what I had planted and then went back to those entries later on to report casualties. It is amazing to see how one's garden evolves over the years. Ideas, plans, dreams and hopes all found their way into my garden journal, as were the occasional successes. It was also a good place to note when plants flowered, so that planting combinations could be imagined for future years, or to record inspiring planting schemes seen in other gardens. It is not necessary to use a fancy journal, though I have sometimes had these over the years - any old exercise book will do for the purpose. The main thing is to write in it, frequently, and reread it regularly to remind yourself of what you want your garden to be.

Happy gardening for 2011!