New Year resolutions for the garden

Posted: Sunday 1 January 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair

Your garden is one of the few places where you can make easily attainable New Year resolutions.

Flowers of Persicaria orientalis

I trust that your various Christmases were delightful and you are now rested, and feeling slightly plump, but full of enthusiasm about things to come. The time has come to gird your loins and get ready for another year of gardening.

Your garden is one of the few places where you can make easily attainable New Year resolutions. It is much easier (and more pleasurable) to decide to grow ‘Belle de Fontenay’ potatoes, or install a rudimentary irrigation system to your window boxes, than it is to give up cake or jog everyday.

I have a couple of projects in mind to do this year.

We have been in this garden for nigh on twenty years now, and I have done almost everything I set out to do so. Rather than just sitting around maintaining things as they are, I think the time has come for some changes.

I toyed with the idea of digging up absolutely everything, and starting again from scratch. But my wife gave me one of those "over-my-dead-body-chum" looks, so I throttled back a bit and decided to moderate my ambitions slightly.

Firstly I want to plant some trees: the tallest thing in this garden is a Salix exigua (coyote willow) which is a lovely silvery-leaved shrub. It gets to about 4m high very quickly, and then suckers to form a multi-stemmed thicket. It’s very pretty, but it's been sickening in recent years and has reached the end of its useful life.

So I will plant at least one tree: something not too big, with as much interest as possible. My thoughts are wandering towards crab apples, as they provide very pretty blossom, good autumn leaves, and spectacular fruit. I am still not sure which variety though, could be Malus tschonoskii, M.trilobata or M.transitoria. All suggestions are welcome.

My other resolution is to plant more annuals. Last summer I had some left over from a job, and put them in my borders wherever I saw a gap. They made a huge impression, so this year I will grow many more.

The ones that fit in best with my garden are the wispier, wilder varieties: I will grow Nicotiana mutabilis (big leaves and skinny stems carrying pink and white flowers) Tithonia rotundifolia (a heart stopping orange flower) lots of Cosmos in pink and white, cornflowers, and the staggeringly lovely Persicaria orientalis (pictured).

That said, this is not a process wholly confined to New Year resolutions and I am almost certain to think of a few other things later. Like most of you, I am constantly thinking about how to tweak and change my garden around: that is one of the main pleasures of gardening, otherwise we would merely be custodians.

Happy New Year to you all.


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happymarion 02/01/2012 at 13:57

A small tree for year round interest, James? Cornus officinalis gets my vote, having admired it all year in the Bristol University Botanic Garden. Such a neat tree with orange blossom all over in the spring and beautiful berries in the autumn. Oh dear, no tool bar to put in italics!!

oldchippy 05/01/2012 at 19:16

Our local council have been planting tree's on the grass verge, The tree's planted with just a stake seam to be standing the strong wind's we have been getting this week better than the tree's planted in plastic tube's,The stake's are either to short or not driven in the ground deep enough as they look as if they have been to good new year's eve party.

LORELEI 21/01/2012 at 17:43

I too feel like digging out and starting again, but time and funds are not on my side. Last summer was not good for me and the garden as we had a very boisterous dog and a bird loving cat staying with us for the whole summer ! I also was unwell for a time and the garden was neglected. This year will be different. I intend to be out there as much as I can and use the secateurs more. I dont help plants by not cutting back as much as I should.