By P. Allen Smith
Photography by Steven Veach, Ward Lile and Mark Fonville
More than 40 percent of people in this country make new year’s resolutions, mostly related to saving money, losing weight, or starting a new hobby. But I’m not going to talk about my exercise goals, how I plan to read more, or my vow to use candles more in my everyday life (why save this magical light for special occasions?) I’m going to talk about the important stuff – what I’m striving for in my garden in the coming year. Maybe you’ll be able to relate to a few of these.
5. Love my soil. A rich and successful garden begins and ends with healthy soil. I’m fortunate to live on a farm with an abundance of chicken manure (only a gardener can appreciate an abundance of chicken manure), so I make good use of that ready source of organic material to enrich my soil.
In 2019, I vow to remain vigilant in the care and upkeep of my garden’s most valuable resource.
4. Step out of my plant comfort zone. I love petunias. I think it’s almost a requirement if you live in the South that you have a soft spot for this sweet, colorful annual. One reason I love them is because they’re reliable performers, so I know that I can rely on them in certain planters without a lot of thought. But is that lazy gardening? What if I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried some new combinations this year? Bacopa, Abutilon, Nicotiana, and many other annuals are just as delightful.
I vow to try some new plants in spots where I tend to rely on my old standby favorites.
3. Add more whimsy in the garden. I’ve always been a fan of whimsy. It’s one of my 12 principles of garden design. But it’s an easy one to let slide because it’s usually not associated with a function. On a day-to-day basis, I’m faced with things like hose spigots that don’t work, the necessity of moving farm equipment, and other never-ending chores, so you have to make time for whimsy. I think of it like exercise – you know it’s good for you, but unless you make it a priority, there are too many other activities in your day that will take priority.
I vow to reevaluate my garden art, pathways, container plantings, and the overall garden experience with an eye for opportunities to incorporate more whimsy.
2. Share the wealth. I’ve been very fortunate in my gardening career, starting when I was just a kid, really, to have mentors, relatives, and even neighbors share their garden knowledge and expertise with me. I really believe that gardeners are some of the best and most generous people in the world. I think of the times that someone has been gracious enough to share a start off a prized plant, or grab a shovel on the spot and say “Here, let me dig you up a piece.” I’ve never met a gardener who doesn’t love a free plant, and who usually generously reciprocates with plant gifts of their own.
In 2019, I vow to look for ways that I can pay the gift of gardening forward to others as a way to repay those who have, and continue to be, so generous with me.
1. Enjoy the garden. This new year’s resolution might seem like an odd one at first – of course, we garden for the enjoyment of it, right? But when I’m out in my garden, I’m not always seeing blooming roses, bees on the zinnias, or flowers spilling out of the planters on the front porch. Instead, I’m seeing the barn that needs to be painted, the shovels left out in the rain, and the weeding that needs to be done. Why is it so easy to see the “flaws” in the garden, and sometimes so difficult to step back, and…enjoy?
I vow to take more time in the coming year to stop, take a breath, and enjoy the beauty of the plants, animals, and farm around me.
What about you? What would you like to change in your gardening life this year? Regardless, I hope the coming year brings you and your loved ones more peace, joy, and candles.
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By P. Allen Smith