In the Garden:
Middle South
December, 2011
Regional Report

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Container gardens can be high maintenance, but this small group, filled with conifers and located near a water spout, offer maximum impact for minimal effort.

Resolutions for a New Year of Gardening

My garden resolutions for 2012 can be summed up by the phrase, "Keep it simple, stupid." That's right; after years of expanding my gardening knowledge and interests, as well as the garden itself, I've decided to retrench. No one begins a garden with the idea they'll create a "needy" landscape that requires constant care, but when a gardener gets on a roll it's easy for things to take on a life of their own.

For example, I've always loved the drama of container gardens, as well as the fact that they put plants closer to eye and nose level where they can be enjoyed to the fullest. I began this love affair in my previous garden, where I first indulged my passion with four hanging baskets on the front porch.

The baskets were a fun way to express my creativity, and I was eager to fashion new combinations each spring. In time, however, this small collection was joined by pots flanking the front door. Then, an extra-large hayrack was added under a window on one side of the house and containers began to find places in the garden too. There was matching pair near the pergola, a pond-in-a-pot on the back porch, and an urn in the woodland garden, to name just a few.

As you can imagine, as my collection of containers grew, so did the time required for their care. Daily irrigation was an arduous chore, especially in July and August when many required an extra spritz in the afternoon. Add more hours for deadheading, general grooming, and a regular schedule of fertilization, and maintenance was soon a burden.

So to preserve my sanity, as well as a bit of time for other pursuits, I resolve, from this day forward, to limit containers at my new home to the varied collection that currently ornaments the front stoop. Filled for the cold season with conifers, ornamental grasses, and winter-blooming annuals such as pansies and violas, these pots are cleverly located within a few feet of a water spout.

In the past year, as my plans for the new garden have evolved, I've decided to check my use of other high maintenance plants too. I'm limiting turf grass to a narrow band across the backyard, thinning the herd of fast-growing vines, and saying no (or at least mostly no) to flowering herbaceous plants.

Instead, I'm resolving to focus on flowering trees and shrubs, especially those that bloom in winter, and to soften the hardscape with low-growing plants that offer plenty of interesting texture, such as ferns, hostas, and mondo grass.

With this plan, the garden can take a break in the heat of summer and so can I.

This year, I plant to travel to gardens near and far, from the Atlanta Botanical Garden in nearby Georgia to Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm in the English county of Cumbria. There I'll enjoy long borders of sun-loving perennials at my leisure with no worries for their care.

When home, I resolve to relish my garden faithfully and share it gratefully. I won't fret over what might be said about the weeds, or the brown spots in the grass, or the white flies on the gardenias. I won't tell anyone about the shrub that failed to thrive until it was moved three times, or the mulch that migrated downhill in a spring gully washer.

I'll ignore the hostas that were shredded in a hail storm to exclaim over frilly ferns. I'll step around dead daphne to reach for the fragrant blooms of a tea olive. I'll wave away concern for Japanese beetles to celebrate the songbirds.

In the year to come, I resolve to keep it simple. Rather than rolling full-speed ahead as I've done in the past, I'll sow contentment by planning carefully, exercising restraint, saving time for travel, and acknowledging all the good things that come my way.

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