It was with some trepidation that I searched this blog for my last batch of New Year’s resolutions. Naturally I have been observing them fastidiously, reviewing my performance at regular intervals and setting new, higher targets. Alas, only in my dreams.
As it happens, I have not done too shamefully. My plant kleptomania was curbed, if not hobbled, by lack of space and the redesign of our London garden. Then came the ultimate gardening joy – bare earth to fill, presenting me with a genuine license to shop. And shopping is something I do exceedingly well. This year will offer fewer opportunities to expand my plant collection, so “less is more” will begrudgingly have to remain my mantra through 2014.
A major success was my quest to visit more gardens. This was a joy for me but wearying for Him Indoors, to whom all gardens look alike. The list included old favourites Castle Drogo and The Salutation, as well as new-found gems Herterton and Houghton Lodge. It seems the more gardens one visits the more come to mind that need adding to the rosta. This year’s wish list includes Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill, Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex and the late Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter in East Sussex.
Books have once again stacked up, waiting for the day when I break a leg, get the sack or retire. Only one of these options is appealing, and that’s twenty years off. I will doubtless continue to accumulate glossy, fascinating tomes for that illusive rainy day. It will not help that I have subscribed to two additional gardening magazines this year, Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden. These are unadulterated gardening porn, distracting me from the serious business of proper reading, but how addictive they can be!
I also vowed to be a better gardener in 2013. Quite how I intended to judge this I don’t know, but I have certainly learnt more, enquired freely and tried new things out. Gardening has a never-ending horizon. It’s an equation with so many variables that the outcome is never predictable. That’s why we love it so.
What does this leave me to aim for in 2014? To begin with, I mean to embrace my new-found interest in our London garden and make it something I can be proud of. For this summer I am devising plantings which will come into their own in the evening, using pale colours and fragrant flowers. The decked area, currently green and slippery, will also be renovated with a raised bed added for herbs and salad vegetables.
I am also committing to make more considered decisions about which plants to keep and what to plant where. A riot of colour is all very well, but when two plants really complement one another their impact is more than doubled. A case in point emerged when I grouped together our Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ and Eucomis bicolor this autumn. The dark leaves of the Aeonium picked up the purplish flecks in the flowers and stems of the Eucomis brilliantly, whilst the apple green leaves and pineapple tufts of the Eucomis added tropical flair to the relationship. This is a colour association I hope to rekindle in spring, with a combination of Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ and T. ‘Queen of the Night’.
2014 will also be a year when big jobs need to be tackled. Our coastal garden is coming up to six years old. There’s paintwork to be refreshed and the raised borders urgently need digging out and replanting. Both jobs have been put off one too many times, but with our open days in August they will need to be crossed off the list as soon as spring arrives.
Meanwhile, I am keen to extend the reach, interest and variety of this blog. All suggestions welcome. I will be trying to reconnect a little with the world of landscape architecture, and to find out more about the people behind the gardens I visit, through interviews and correspondence. I must also strive to improve my writing and photography skills, which I persistently feel are lacking. I should perhaps begin by actually reading the manual for my camera!
Lest I end on a downbeat, 2014 does feel instinctively like it should be a good year for life, for gardening and for The Frustrated Gardener. I hope this proves to be the same for all my readers.