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Review and Renew in 2011

Janus at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Janus, the Roman god whose two faces could look backward to the past, and forward to the future, gave his name to the month of January. He is a god of doorways, and the special patron of all new beginnings,  a perfect symbol for the new year, when all things seem possible and sure of success.

The month of January is a good time for the gardener to look backward to review the events of the past year, trials and successes, and then make plans for the new year. I have been reviewing, and thinking about the future this past week.

The first big and discrete project we carried out this year was creating a Front Garden. The first week of April I laid out two lasagna garden beds right in front of the house where I thought I could start early and hardy greens. The second of those two beds touched the edge of the Daylily Bank to make a whole cultivated section to the left of our front door.

The Daylily Bank was begun in 2009. This grassy bank had always been very difficult to mow and earlier attempts as planting some kind of tough groundcover did not succeed. With the help of daughter Diane who was willing to break sod, two springs in a row, I planted daylilies, one of the toughest perennials around.  While not usually listed under the category of groundcover, daylilies do increase prolifically and, once established,  can be counted on to keep down unwanted weeds.

By the middle of the summer I was able to count this whole area a great success. I was so pleased. Lettuces grew in the bed nearest the house, broccoli and parsley in the second bed, edged with nasturtiums as a transition to the daylilies. It was very pretty and productive.  Very little weeding was necessary.

The Daylily Bank touches the new Rose Bank, also started last year and continued this year. Like the Daylily Bank, the Rose Bank is intended to cut down on difficult mowing – and give me a new space for roses.  I added Hawkeye Belle, a Buck sub-zero rose, and Linda Campbell, a small red rugosa that I dug out of the Sunken Garden where it had almost completely disappeared into the weeds.

The second big project was a lean-to kind of garden shed added on the back of the Tractor Shed. This required the help of the men in the family, husband, son and son-in-law but it was pretty well finished one beautiful autumn weekend.  It is just big enough to hold tools, mowers, garden carts, pots and a potting shelf, by the single little window. The shed was a great gift!

Having reviewed those successes, my husband and I are considering a big project for the spring.  For years we have endured the winter winds that roar across our hill, battering the house.  We were familiar with the concept of windbreaks. Indeed, we successfully planted a long wind and snow-break in the field below the house using tiny evergreens from the conservation district.  They have grown tall and thick to prevent the snow from blowing and drifting across the field onto the road making it impassable.

We also planted some conservation district seedlings to the northwest of the house to act as a windbreak many years ago. Only one tree survived, and we never tried again. However, after talking to Sue Reed, author of Energy Wise Landscape Design last month, we are inspired again.

When I started talking about calculating the placement of the windbreak based on the 100 foot mature height of pines, my husband had to rein me in. It is true that trees take time to mature, but he pointed out that even should we live to see our trees reach full maturity, no trees in the woods around us grow to that great a height.

Considering our age, and our desire to actually reap some benefit from planting a windbreak, we will be choosing fast growing evergreens, buy trees that are already taller than six inches, and calculate their placement based on a 50 foot height. Now the research begins. I need to find a nursery that sells small trees for a moderate price, and make a selection for a mixed planting. This is a more expensive project than we usually embark on, but the hope is that there will be a financial as well as an aesthetic benefit.

In addition to reviewing Reed’s book, I am reading The Wild Garden, first published by William Robinson, a noted British gardener and author in 1870, and expanded by Rick Darke with new glorious photographs.  Robinson and Darke make the point that they are not talking about the wilderness, but a wildness that is defined by hardy, often native, plants, from trees to perennials, that will sustain themselves with little work

I have been bemoaning the lack of shade for 30 years, but inspired by Reed and Darke I now see an opportunity for a shady grove.  Since it will be close to the house, it may provide a shady place to sit.

Of course, at this time of the year we are all getting new catalogs emblazoned with the names of new varieties. We can all have something new!

Do you have a project for 2011? Do you desire new plants? What is your dream for the new year?

Between the Rows   January 1, 2011

8 comments to Review and Renew in 2011

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    My tiny garden is full. Now with saying that I must find spots for a little more color. I also need to learn how to prune the shrubs that are in my garden. I usually let things grow themselves. This isn’t all bad but I have some lanky shrubs to attend to. Nothing big on my list this year.

  • Pat

    Lisa – I should have pruning on my dream, too. I am always too timid.

  • Your plans sound wonderful. I can’t recommend ‘The Wild Garden’ highly enough, it was one of the most influential books I’ve read. I hope you will enjoy your wild, shady spot as much as I enjoy mine. Let me know if you’d like some Anemonella (Thalictrum thalictroides), I could send you some.
    I have no great plans for this year, just a hope that I can finish the projects I started last year.

  • Pat

    MMD – The Wild Garden is wonderful. I am looking forward to shade and shade plants. I may very well take you up on the offer of Anemonella. Take care of that ankle.

  • I love the way you make your passion for gardening so darn physical. Can’t wait to see the progress of this new project. My projects are a little more cerebral, but they’re getting there!

  • So enjoyed your review of the year, Pat! You certainly accomplished a lot this past year. I’m picturing the Daylily Bank–a great idea for eliminating some difficult mowing, and I bet it looks beautiful in the summer.

    This is the time of year, too, when I have so many plans for the coming year; it’s fun to dream about what the garden could be. Thanks for mentioning “The Wild Garden”; I had forgotten to add this one to my library list.

  • Pat

    Tinky – Garden does help keep one in shape, although a doctor once said that gardening wasn’t exercise – it was trauma.
    Rose – More about The Wild Garden coming up.

  • My goodness Pat, you certainly did quite a lot last year! I’m thinking my only goal this year will be to find someone to finish making my darn gate! But of course, I’ll be trying to fill in my new border. I’m sure I’ll plant too much and then have to edit it. Such is gardening!

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