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Top New Year's Resolutions for Outdoorsy People

Goals for the New Year's Garden


Picture of maiden grass in late fall.

Maiden grass adds interest to the yard in winter.

David Beaulieu

My top New Year's resolutions for gardeners will help you establish goals for next year's garden. The stated goals that follow focus on, among other matters, how to save money while still creating an attractive landscape.

New Year's Resolution #1: Save Money While Gardening

Planning before planting is the hallmark of effective landscaping. And planning is especially important for those who are landscaping on a budget. If you'd like to save money while still achieving a landscape that looks like a million bucks, think "2-for-1." No, I'm not talking about buying two plants for the price of one (although that, too, can be nice!). In this case, by "2-for-1" I'm referring to quality, not quantity.

That is, some plants serve double duty. Here's an example. If saving money is a top priority for you, then you don't necessarily have to buy one shrub that flowers gorgeously in spring or summer, and another shrub that displays brilliant foliage color in fall. Instead, you can buy one shrub that serves both those functions. For instance, oakleaf hydrangea produces large flower heads beginning in late spring to early summer; in fall, its leaf color morphs into a striking reddish purple.

Timing, too, is important if you wish to save money when shopping for plants. In my article on fall flowers, I discuss how to plan an autumn garden (with annual flowers) that maximizes color while minimizing cost. As for trees, shrubs and perennials, late fall is a good time to shop for bargains.

Read articles:

  1. Fothergilla
  2. Fall Flowers

New Year's Resolution #2: Live Lean and Green

When I was growing up, I remember frequently hearing the expression, "lean and mean." But in many circles today, yesterday's tough-guy Spartanism has made an environmentally conscious shift: "lean and green" is gaining precedence.

In some cases, saving money and "living green" dovetail nicely. That's why the cost-conscious will find just as much value in this collection of resources on green living as will those interested in "saving the planet."

Read article: Green Living

New Year's Resolution #3: Experiment With Form and Texture

Flowers can light up a landscape, but sometimes we become too dependent on flowers, ignoring the value that other plant features bring to a yard -- especially when it's "off season" for flowers. Nor does the answer lie solely in the use of fall foliage trees or smaller foliage plants. For example, a large clump of ornamental grass can add great interest to a winter landscape, as can trees and shrubs with interesting branching patterns, such as corkscrew filbert. With this observation, we enter the world of plant form and texture.

Read article: Form and Texture

New Year's Resolution #4: Appreciate Your Plants

After suffering through a long winter, we plant lovers are often guilty of going berserk at the nursery in spring. We buy too many different kinds of trees, shrubs and perennials all at once — one of this, one of that…. This, despite the fact that one of the most important principles to remember when designing your own landscape is that masses of the same plant have a bigger visual impact in planting beds than a mish-mash.

Admittedly, it’s more satisfying to walk into the nursery and buy a smörgåsbord of individual plants. But that’s just for one day. How to derive maximum satisfaction from your plants over the long term is an issue of much greater importance, don’t you think? There’s something to be said for turning our attention to more fully appreciating each and every plant we end up growing in our gardens....

New Year's Resolution #5: Look for the Details

And there are so many small details worth admiring! I find I derive maximum satisfaction from my garden when I slow down long enough to admire what’s already there, properly, before adding too much more just yet. To that end, I recommend carrying around a magnifying glass when in the garden, at the very least. You’d be surprised at the details you miss walking by small plants growing on the ground — details that you can appreciate down on all fours and armed with a magnifying glass....

New Year's Resolution #6: Raise Your Gardening to a New Level

If a bad back precludes your stooping over with a magnifying glass to appreciate the details of plants on the ground, consider growing your plants in raised beds, which effectively bring the plants up to your level. Of course, it's also easier to maintain plants in raised beds.

Read article: Raised Beds

New Year's Resolution #7: Keep a Garden Journal

But don’t stop there! At the next level of commitment, the plant appreciator keeps a garden journal. Keeping a garden journal will allow you to record the changes in your plants, as they progress through the seasons — and from year to year, if you have the discipline to stick with it that long!

And if you’re even a bit more committed to "making a connection" with your plants and thereby appreciating them to the fullest, snap photos of them at different junctures along the way. A closeup lens comes in handy for this but isn’t absolutely necessary. The photos can be incorporated in your garden journal. I find the easiest way to keep such a journal is on the computer. For instance, to chart the progress of a butterfly bush, create a “Butterfly Bush” folder, which would then contain:

  1. A text document to hold the garden journal entries on your butterfly bush
  2. Image documents (photos of butterfly bush at various stages)

My own landscaping pictures include photos of plants from my own yard, as well as photos of other people's plants.

On Page 2 I conclude my list of top New Year's resolutions for gardeners....

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