by Susan Tito
The ball has dropped, the empty bottles of bubbly are piled high in the recycling bin and you’re staring down an onerous list of resolutions you know you’ll break before month’s end. Think beyond changing yourself and think outside — as in your garden.
It’s only human to struggle with self-improvement, but we avid gardeners find it easy to improve upon what we cherish most — our landscapes.
Make 2018 the year of Your New Garden.
Are you tired of looking at vast expanses of grass that you hate to mow? Looking to add some color? Consider installing a perennial border or cutting garden. Despise spending your hard-earned money at the supermarket for produce? Maybe this is the year you grow a vegetable garden — and along with it, a whole lot of pride.
Just imagine you are picking tomatoes off the vine or plucking fat, juicy berries for your morning cereal. All it takes is a little planning and you can make those dreams a reality.
A new garden means something different to everybody. Perhaps you’re happy with the number of flower beds you have or you already grow some vegetables. Or maybe you’re like me and have every inch of your landscape filled to capacity with flowers, bulbs, annuals and evergreens of all kinds and don’t have room for another garden.
It doesn’t matter. A new garden is all about fresh perspective. Gardens are not static — over time they evolve, they get overgrown. Sometimes favorite plants die, and not from neglect. It just happens, probably more often than people realize. So find it in your heart to forgive yourself for that dead daisy or kaput kalmia. It’s the New Year and time for new beginnings!
No matter how you define “new garden,” you’ll need some inspiration. Seed and plant catalogs are invaluable for this function.
Although most horticultural companies post their offerings online, nothing compares to receiving a colorful, glossy brochure in the mail. The folks at these companies know this, which is why most continue to produce the catalogs we gardeners love. And at this time of the year, they’re just rolling in by the dozens to our mailboxes.
Where to begin: You’ve scoured numerous websites and dog-eared your favorite catalogs, so you know what you like. But is it what you need? This is where a little New Year’s introspection must take place.
Plant growers need to accommodate a range of customers, from those living in the frigid north to those in the subtropical reaches of the deep south, so to keep costs down they produce one catalog that encompasses many plant hardiness zones.
If you know your zone, you’ll know what you can grow. Are you bonkers for bougainvillea? Unless you have a greenhouse or plan to use this plant as an annual, you can forget about growing this beauty, which thrives in plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and won’t survive Long Island’s temperate zone 7.
Next, you need to evaluate your site and ask yourself some questions. For example, is your property in sun or shade, or perhaps a combination thereof? Is the site unusually moist or bone dry? Do you plan to install irrigation or rely on what Mother Nature throws your way? Do you live near the water and get a lot of salt spray? Do you have a deer problem?
Dumb question. Who doesn’t have a deer problem on Long Island?
Do you live near a main street and put up with noise from traffic? The soothing sounds of a bubbling fountain or other water feature would muffle some of that. Are you in a high-stress job and need to unwind at home?
Consider a relaxation garden, which engages all the senses. Planning to get a new puppy? You’ll need to fence in your property and set aside space for the newest member of the family.
There is so much to consider when planning a new garden, including your budget. Are you a do-it-yourself gardener? That will save money. Or do you want to leave that important task to the professionals? With careful selection that can be money well spent.
In the end, no matter what kind of garden you install, how complex or simple your design, it will reflect your unique tastes and needs. So thumb through your plant catalogs, do your research and turn those wish lists into to-do lists. You are the architect of your dreams and you can resolve to make Your New Garden your best garden ever.
Susan Tito is a freelance writer and proprietor of Summerland Garden Design & Consulting (summerlandgardendesign.com). She earned a certificate in ornamental garden design from the New York Botanical Garden and is a member of the American Horticultural Society and Garden Writers Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.