In the Garden:
Upper South
November, 2011
Regional Report

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Give thanks for all you've accomplished in the garden this year.

A Season's Worth of Gratitude

Are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? Do you see what you've accomplished or what still needs to be done? Are you proud of how your garden looks this year or do you keep making apologies? Recently, I saw an interview on television about happiness, and one of this person's keys to happiness was to not only feel gratitude but also to express it. So in that spirit, as we approach the holidays of joy and giving thanks, here are some of my gratitudes with the garden this year.

Taking Shape
Rare and unusual plants do not a garden make. You can have a exquisite garden with very ordinary plants. For me, I believe a beautiful garden combines artful placement of well-grown plants combined with an overall shape to the garden that makes it feel like a well-decorated room or series of room that flow together. Often, this involves structural types of elements, such as an arbor, walk, wall, hedge, fence, and so forth.

Without going into mind-numbing detail as to reasons why, the seven acres of gardens where I live had been evolving rather haphazardly over the last 14 years. A year-and-a-half ago, I looked around and felt quite glum. Then, inspiration struck. A large, empty area in the center could become a main axis of the gardens, rather than a shapeless blob.

So, this year two sets of parallel beds have been installed, giving focus to the axis from an arbor at one end to a gazebo at the other. These also provided a place for me to plant my mother's daylilies and irises. The finishing touch was to add a series of three Emerald Green arborvitae in each of the four beds. Now, even in winter, the beds have substance.

Another major goal this year was to get the right plant in the right place. For instance, due to recent adverse weather, a shade garden had become a sunny one. Not everything has gotten moved yet, but enough that the area is once again filled with healthy, growing plants. Plus, it's been great fun to divide plants, getting more for free, as it were. I'm also working on improving color combinations, plus giving larger-growing plants the space they need to look their best.

Getting Back In Shape
Garden structures as well as the beds and borders themselves can deteriorate over time. Time and money dictate how much can be done in any one year. It's important to evaluate at least once a year what major projects can be accomplished. In my garden, what was once a beautiful picket fence had gone well past shabby-chic. This year saw it re-built along with a nearby grape trellis system. Another accomplishment this year was refurbishing an assortment of garden furniture. Many cans of paint later, a garden swing, table, trellis, and other items were rehabilitated and the gazebo had that south-of-France look I had always dreamed about. I still may not sit down often enough in the garden, but at least they look inviting when I walk by them. And I've finally finished creating the last two main areas that had long been on the list. Foremost on next year's list is to work on the areas that got out of hand this year, but that's to think about for another day.

Small Things, Big Rewards
Finally, there are the individual things in the garden that, well, just make me smile. Babying a special cultivar of Deodar Cedar seems to be paying off, as it grew several feet this year. Of course, I always worry about whether it will make it through another winter. And, yippee, I finally got brave enough to prune the Grace smoke bush, and it's much more attractive for it. Ditto for some other pruning done this year. Maybe someday I'll get over my fear of pruning. You should, too.

There are a great many other aspects of the garden that make me smile as I look out my windows or walk around. Too many to list. That's why we should think about gratitude and express it. May you, also, have an abundance of gratitude about your garden this year.

















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