Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reflections and Resolutions

About two years ago I started keeping a garden journal. Filled with pictures I've cut from gardening magazines and catalogs, I scribble my plans for the coming months and remininsce about the successes and failures from the previous season. It's both heartbreaking and humorous to reread my rants - plants that died, plants that grew too much and took over the garden, empty skies devoid of rain for weeks on end...

I'm not much for resolutions. Instead of resolving to do someothing different in a coming year, my resolutions are spontaneous and are often the result of a three part thought process:

Part One: Oy, that was stupid!
Part Two: Why did I do that?
Part Three:  Ugh! Don't do it again!

I've found this approach quite effective, especially when followed up with a note to myself posted on either my calendar or in my journal as a reminder of what NOT to do. But this year I've decided to post my end-of-year reflections here.

1. Don't lose your Felcos again!

I finally broke down and bought a pair of Felco pruners this year. Tired of the junky pruners I had used for years, I bought a perfect pair of Felcos and guarded them closely. They lay perched atop a box of Kleenex on the counter near the back door, ready to prune at a moments notice. Until I lost them. Always the optimist, I consoled myself with the thought that when my garden went dormant, I'd find their red handles poking out from the dead foliage of some Felco-eating plant and all would be well in my world. It didn't happen and I angrily ordered a replacement pair. Thinking I had purchased the same style, I eagerly opened the box and lifted them from their wrappings. Instead of buying the small everyday pruners meant for flowers, I had selected a larger pair designed for cutting small branches. They fit awkwardly in my small, square hands but worked perfectly. I will NOT lose them!!

2. Don't lose your sunglasses in the asters again!

After spending the summer canoodling with the aster divarcatus, my sunglasses aren't the same. But at least I found them.

3. Quarantine plants with spider mites!

A hideous invasion of spider mites ravaged my potted plants this summer. I took a leaf to the US Botanical Gardens in DC for an accurate analysis, I blasted my plants with water, but did I actually move the orginal host plant away form the other plants?? Of course not! That would have been way too easy!!! Initiate three part thought process. Part One; Oy, that was stupid!....

4. Fill bottoms of large pots with packing peanuts. 

I do this every year and every year I'm glad I did. It seems the more decorative the pot is, the worse the drainage. By filling the bottom of the pot with packing peanuts (the kind that do not dissolve in water), I use less potting soil, improve the drainage, and make the pot less heavy in case I decide to rearrange my pots. I reuse the packing peanuts every year.

5. I mulched the garden this fall.

I've never mulched my garden in the fall before. I always spent the winter pouring over catalogs and magazines, dreaming up new garden beds or mentally rearranging current plants. Come spring, boxes of plants would arrive and I would disappear into the garden, rushing home from work and my daughters soccer games to spend as much time outside as possible.

This past summer was hot and brutally dry. By the beginning of August, it became painfully apparent I had a massive amount of work ahead of me if I wanted to avoid the same problems (too much dry shade, overgrown shrubs/vines) I spent the summer fighting. By the middle of November, I had taken out two tiny trees, two shrubs, spent hours pruning and transplanting, and had lifted every plant from an 18 foot bed so I could raise the soil level and ammend the soil. With so much bare soil visible, I decided to mulch the entire garden to prevent the newly transplanted roots from heaving. I filled in any bare spots with bare root plants, selections from my favorite online nurseries, and super sale plants from local garden centers.

The plants in the picture were ordered from Lazy S's Farm, an amazing online nursery in southern VA. I ordered ruellia 'White Form', purple toadflax, lots of coneflowers, and some veronica. Every thing arrived in perfect condition. Even after shipping, I paid less than I would have locally. Toadflax and perennial ruellia, a VA native, aren't available at the garden centers near my house.  

Our winter has been incredibly cold and windy but when I look at garden, tucked quietly in for the winter with a blanket of leaves and mulch, a peaceful sense of satisfaction creeps through me. Initiate new thought process: Part One: Smile, that was smart!

6. Spend more time on Blotanical.

In an average year, I grade over 12,000 assignments, the vast majority of which are graded at home. This figure doesn't include the Science Fair, of which I am the Grand Poohbah. At a minimum of 20 assignments per quarter (There are four qtrs in our year) x 150 students, I spend hours grading, grading, grading. I am required to post 18 grades per quarter, so changing these numbers isn't really an option.

However, I'm a big believer that spending time doing the things we love, makes us happier people. So one of my goals for this year is to spend more time discovering the amazing blogs on Blotanical. When the only garden we ever see is our own, it's easy to lose perspective. This summer as my stratospheric water bill inspired me to find creative ways to keep my garden moist, it was comforting to know I wasn't the only one struggling with scorching weather. So I've created a goal, but not a resolution, to discover one new blog a week. Here's to the future! Clink! Clink!

What are your resolutions and reflections?


  1. I made a New Years resolution a few years ago not to make any more (mainly because I always failed to keep them) - but I like yours. Reflections and resolutions for the garden sounds like a good idea.

  2. I agree -- a great set of pruners is essential. Happy Holidays!

  3. So many new year resolutions! I will try and make some myself too, it might be nice to see what I can accomplish.

    Hope you had a very merry Christmas and that you have the best happy New Year!

  4. Love the image of your plants consuming and/or consorting with various important belongings. Hope your Felcos reappear when most needed. Am jealous that you managed to mulch, something I failed to do yet again, so my compost bins are overflowing. However, now that the ground has thawed out a little I am running out of excuses to not just get out there and do it...

  5. I enjoyed the reflective quality of your post...I'm still organizing my thoughts on exactly how I feel about the start of this new year...my job just ended so I find myself at the beginning of a new journey. The direction of the path is still unclear but I'm optimistic and joyful that it will be an opportunity for new discovery.

  6. Sounds like you had your share of garden challenges this year, as any great gardener does! I think your list is great and I look forward to reading about your adventures in 2011. My son is participating in Science Fair this year for the first time (3rd grade). It has been a lot of work so far. I can only imagine your job is just as challenging. Happy New Year!

  7. Missy - I'm more reflective than resolute. If only I started with hindsight instead of ended with it!

    Plant Postings - Felcos are fabulous! If only they were cheaper...

    Fer - You've already accomplished so much by just gardening in another country/language other than your own!

    Plantalicious - I'm convinced my perennials are much naughtier than they let on. A few are down right promiscuous, and the phlox will hook up with whatever other phlox is nearby. I have lots of seedlings I should sell under the cultivar name Naughty but Nice. :o)

    Cat - We went through a career change when my husband retired from the AF at 42 but was way too young to be truly retired. You have phenomenal photography skills. Maybe there's opportunity there?

    Karin - Welcome to my blog! Yeah, it's a little mind blowing how involved science fair projecs can be. One year my daughter compared fresh french fries to fast food french fries to see which ones would mold first. It was gross, but fun. I convinced my son to experiment with a worm composter and now have a lots of worm compost at the ready!! Woo-hoo!!

  8. Your resolutions sound like good ones for a lot of us. I certainly can relate to much of what you wrote. I removed roses to put in more drought tolerant plants, so that one is one I intend to keep up with. Also the Felcos, I don't lose them so mush as destroy them. I resolve to take much better care of a tool that cost me over fifty bucks wholesale.

  9. PS. I just tried to pick the post and the pick number had a minus sign. I picked it and it went down by the number of picks I posted. Anymore and it will say zero. I hope it is tabulating right via your plot.

  10. GWGT - I'm still learning to navigate Blotanical. I've seen the negative sign, too, but am not sure what it means. I think it means I need to take time to watch the tutorial. :o) I'll log into my account to see what's going on. Thanks for picking me!!!

  11. Hi TS, How's your recovery coming along? Isn't it too early to be ordering plants considering your condition and your weather? Are you still hopping around? I enjoy reading your reflections and resolutions. I used to make them yearly. I must ponder on it before the year ends. Happy New Year!

  12. One - Hi! I order plants but don't have them shipped until the spring. I usually forget what I've ordered so opening the boxes is like Christmas all over again. My recovery has been slow but steady and now I'm back in physical therapy so I can bend and strengthen my right knee. I can get around without my crutches but am a little wobbly so I still use them when I go out. Thanks so much for asking!! :o)

  13. I once lost (correction: my son lost) an expensive pair of pruners. I replaced them with a cheap pair, and I was happy enough with them. But my husband has grumbled ever since, so I think I will get felcos this year. All of my felco tools are great, and I never regretted buying them. But losing a felco tool hurts!I appreciate your reflections and resolutions. I like your idea of putting packing peanuts in the bottom of large pots. I should have thought of this myself!

  14. Thanks for sharing your resolutions. I need to remember those myself! Great advice!

  15. Happy new year to you! I like your take on resolutions. I am dying to add to my garden this spring, but am determined to hold off until I get certain flower beds under better control. Like you, I am forever loosing tools in the garden. I now add a ribbon of glow in the dark tape, so I can find them!
    p.s. I can't believe how many papers you mark! Teachers work so hard and I respect them greatly. Have you ever visited Gatsby Gardens? http://gatsbysgardens.blogspot.com/ She is a retired teacher who I believe taught school for 34 years. You should have a lot in common, I would think. Have a great weekend!

  16. Great resolutions! good luck! I used to teach 8th grade English and ahhh. the papers!! One of my main resolutions is NOT to volunteer so much. I've really given a lot, and between my school, my kids' elementary and middle schools, and my desire to do more Master Gardener projects, there are a LOT of duties to pick up. I DON'T have to be involved in every one of them. We're getting ready for our science expo. My little one "dyed" carnations. :) I did volunteer help - but what my husband doesn't know, is that HE will be the one to break down the tables and clean up. ha ha.

  17. oh and great use of the packing peanuts by the way. You inspired me to make a post about little things to recycle and use in the garden

  18. I do the packing peanut thing too mostly to reduce the amount of soil. It helps to put them inside a plastic bag so they don't get covered with soil especially if you reuse them.

  19. I have a pair of Felcos somewhere in the garden too. The red handle is not helping... I was feeling pain considering all the shrub removal etc you did, yikes, I hope you had help.

  20. I've seen your blog around lately but I haven't visited until now...I'm still trying to figure out what your name is and where you live. I hope that doesn't sound freaky --!!--I'm in VA and we have very similar gardening situations. Since I just located you at 'Best Garden Blogs' I thought I'd drop by to say hello. I've ordered from Lazy SS Farms and that's my favorite place ever. I put in tons of Milkweed last year and am looking forward to this gardening season to see how it over-wintered. I added a whole lot of natives from there, as well. I'm still behind on blogging about it all. It seems there are a lot of other things that come up to get in the way of my blogging! I think it's called 'Life'! Anyway, are you in VA or MD? I'm not close to the Nat. Arboretum and only get to DC for things like the Cherry Blossoms or to see a museum. If I didn't still have a son in school I might venture up 95 more often during the day.


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