Garden Dreams Bloom Bright in the Winter

Claire Splan

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Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I’m a big fan of New Year’s Day, or anything for that matter that promises to turn the page on the past and focus only on what’s ahead. Nowhere is that more appropriate and more welcome than in the garden, for each year’s garden is a wholly different garden. The successes or failures we’ve had in the past may not apply the next year because each year brings a unique combination of weather, plants, pests—even soil can change from one year to the next.

So each January I try to look at my garden with fresh eyes. I study it as it is right now and try to map out a route from here, today, to the garden I hope to have in the spring, summer, fall, and again next winter.

I begin by checking the bones of the garden—should I add more structural or focal point plants, or do I need to further develop the hardscape?

Next, I consider flowers and fruits. I like lots of blooms and lots of edibles, so I’m always looking for ways to get more of each. I review the new varieties that nurseries introduce each year and decide which ones merit a tryout in my garden. Shall I go with a new tomato or a new rose? When space is limited, the competition can be fierce.

Then I think about color, particularly all-season color. Is there enough color and visual interest in my garden to carry me through the entire year? Or do I need to look for plants that show better in the fall and winter, when the usual blooms are done?

I make a lot of notes and scribble a lot of sketches and flag way too many plants in nursery catalogs. I like to devote a calendar or small notebook just to my garden so that I can track what I do and what I intend to do, as well as what results. You may want to use social media such as Pinterest or Instagram to document your plans and your progress in beautiful technicolor and share them with the world.

My January garden dreams are always much too ambitious and grand for what my little plot and littler checkbook can accommodate. But my January dreams are the fresh start I need as, bit by bit and year by year, I build a better and better garden.

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Writer/editor. Author of "California Fruit & Vegetable Gardening" and "California Month-by-Month Gardening."

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