New Year's Resolutions and Mistakes
I might break my only New Year’s resolution: To make no New Year’s resolutions this year. I make them perennially, and sometimes even keep them but this year I resolved to wing it.
A couple of sentences in Robin Lane’s Fox’s garden column in a recent Weekend FT are compelling me to reconsider. He writes “I bet that, like me, you have been sitting on mistakes without realizing them. It can take years for an owner to see that an inherited or misplaced plant is in need of removal”.
It is unimaginable that RLF is sitting on mistakes, but this hit a nerve. I know that I am sitting on mistakes but I am not good about making hard choices in my garden. I am downright spineless.
For instance, I have an “inherited” tree that is a nuisance from the time it finishes blooming until it drops its leaves in fall. It is the aged weeping cherry tree about which I have written before, and that for weeks drips overripe purple-staining cherries all over the terrace, chairs, umbrellas, and us. To add insult to injury, it drops copious leaves all summer. I’ve consulted arborists, sent leaf samples to be analyzed, fed it, sprayed it, watered it, scolded it, encouraged it all to no avail because it is dying. I dread a repeat performance in 2015 but it is so lovely for the 7 days it blooms and it must be more than 50 years old. How can I justify taking this venerable tree down? And yet, is it is certainly a mistake not to. Perhaps it’s time to make that hard choice. A New Year’s resolution?
Another mistake is hanging on to the pink Japanese anemones that bloom all fall. You might ask what fault one could possibly find with healthy, long blooming perennials. In theory there is none, but pink just isn’t the right color for my garden and at 4 feet tall, they require endless staking. They are robust and beautiful so I have resisted taking them out and last year lamely shuffled them into a corner, but they still are out of place. They really need a new home. Could letting them go be another resolution?
And then there are the raccoons whose diurnal visits in search of snacks caused no end of mess and miserylast summer. The main perp was caught red-handed in that same weeping cherry, his little masked snout peering resentfully at my dinner guests, willing us to go inside to eat so he could come down and do the same. Who knew that raccoons are four-legged roto-tillers who use the kitty’s water dish as a finger bowl? What a mistake to tolerate their intrusions! By the time I launched into a hilariously feckless series of efforts to deter these adorable pests, they’d procreated and done expensive damage. Coyote urine, mothballs, full frontal attacks with water spurting from my garden house, hurling unprintable epithets, and other “sure-fire” remedies failed. I finally lined the top of the ivy covered garden wall with driveway stakes that protrude from under the ivy like medieval spikes. This seemed to help, but the pointed yellow and orange stakes violate my color scheme. Could another resolution be to make these raccoons wish they lived in the middle of the I-95 corridor the second they show up again?
Last year I started keeping a running list of every cultivar in my garden. The list is in the cloud and accessible on my phone, so I am never without it at a nursery. I did not, however, keep track of where my bulbs are – what an admission for a Dutch woman! Every year I think I should photograph the flowerbeds so I can see where and what I should be planting in the fall. I have never done it so I’m always at a loss when the fall bulb catalogues come through the mail slot. Could be a very easy resolution.
An alternative fall bulb project would be to plant bulbs like snowdrops, anemones, and scillas in small pots to be installed in Spring 2016 where they are needed. You can buy all kinds of bulbs “in the green” in springtime at any UK nursery specifically for this purpose, and it seems such a good and simple idea; I wonder why I don’t do it, too. This could definitely be another resolution – a fun one.
The problem with making New Year’s resolutions is that I never know when to stop. Thank goodness I havea word limit here to restrain me. The list I started before writing this piece began to feel endless so I’ve prioritized. In the meantime, when I went into the garden for a breath of air the other day, I came up with the one resolution that I will keep. Standing in the bright mid-January sunshine, I noticed that there actually is a lot of winter interest in my garden, which is to say that the past few years of planning and planting have paid off. Bulbs are poking up, hellebores are blooming, and the leaves of some of my heucheras and bergenias have become a gorgeous red. There are ferns and grasses. Leaf-mold mulch makes the beds tidy and insulated. It is very pretty. What a mistake it is not to pause and admire it!
My resolution to make no resolutions this year is hereby officially broken: I resolve to take more time to simply enjoy the garden. And if that means taking down that damn cherry tree, I’ll do it.