Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reflections on 2012

Happy New Year, everyone!  For the past week, the media has been highlighting the top stories of the past year, as they always do.  I usually like to recap the past year in my garden as well, but this year seemed rather uneventful for me, other than the excitement of attending Spring Fling in Asheville in May.  Instead, I thought I would start off the new year by looking back at some of the lessons I learned in the garden in 2012.

'Victoria' blues and whites taking over the front of the arbor bed.

There is always something new to be learned about gardening, and I certainly learned some practical lessons this past year such as how attractive foliage can be in containers, that amsonia has very long, stubborn roots,  or that cats and houseplants don't always go together.  One of the hardest lessons to learn for this stubborn tightwad thrifty gardener was that just because a volunteer plant is providing free blooms doesn't mean you have to keep it.  Due to last year's mild winter, I had many more volunteers than usual.  I dug up many nicotania seedlings to give away in the spring and eventually became ruthless enough to pull the tall plants, even though they were blooming beautifully, because they were crowding out many of the perennials.  But I couldn't bring myself to do the same for the 'Victoria Blue' and 'White' salvias, even though they eventually encroached upon new and tender perennials as well.  If this year's winter is as cold as predicted, I may not have the same problem this coming season.  But if I do, I vow to be more selective and weed out unwanted volunteers.

Aside from these practical lessons, however, most of the lessons I learned this year were more significant and changed some of my perspectives on gardening and even life:

A new double tulip, 'Montreux,' was one of the delights of spring.

Mother Nature has the final say.  In what has to be one of the weirdest weather years in my memory, 2012 began with a mild winter that turned into an unusually early and warm spring.  Indoor projects were quickly cast aside as I eagerly jumped into garden work in March.   As I marvelled at blooms appearing much earlier than usual, I began to worry what the summer might bring, but that thought was pushed to the back of my mind as I delighted in masses of brightly-colored tulips and daffodils. A joyous spring turned into summer, and the worry surfaced again when the rain clouds disappeared.  For two months, not an appreciable drop of rain fell, and I despaired along with gardeners all over the country that my garden would not survive, as I trekked out each day in the heat to drag water hoses around the garden.

Despite the drought, bees and butterflies were abundant.  Natives and tough annuals like zinnias were unfazed by the weather.

But then in August and into the fall, the rain returned.  Words like "severe drought" and "extreme drought" were no longer headlines in the local news.  The drought had taken its toll, to be sure--I did lose a few plants, and many local farmers reported one of the most dismal harvests they had ever had.  But my garden perked up with the welcome moisture, and surprisingly, the harvest on our farm produced normal yields. We were much luckier than many.  I learned that I shouldn't complain so much because there is always someone much worse off than I--at least we don't have hurricanes in Illinois.  And I was reminded that Nature has the ultimate power in my garden and cannot be controlled.  Like life, I must work with what I am given and accept the ups and downs as inevitable and keep moving forward.

The Rose Garden at the Biltmore Estate--my garden looks nothing like this!

Every garden is special, no matter its size or style.  Readers of this blog may think I have a huge garden, judging by the number of different blooms I show from month to month.  But nothing could be further from the truth--in reality, my garden is quite small by most standards and is actually  several flowerbeds without any cohesive design whatsoever.  Each bed started out with a planned design and a color scheme, but in a short amount of time each grew into a crowded riot of clashing colors, fueled by my ever-growing plant addiction and habit of filling in every available inch of bare soil.  My little garden makes me happy, but at the same time I'm never quite satisfied.  If a visitor stops by and wants to "tour" the garden, I look even more critically at it and can't help wondering what they must be thinking--"Sheesh, you call this a garden??"

One of the more unusual garden features in Asheville--Christopher Mello's "Dump Truck Park."

But my trip to Asheville with tours of so many different gardens opened my eyes and my mind to a different philosophy.  My garden may not be as big or tidy as I would like it, and it's certainly not magazine centerfold-worthy, but it brings me great joy, and that is all that matters.

There is never enough time.  I think this has been my life's mantra; rushing to meet one deadline after another, I sometimes think my life has been one big blur.  I thought that would all change with retirement, and to a certain extent, it has, but then I keep adding new activities and new interests at the same time my body has slowed down, saying, "whoa, take it easy!"  I realize there will never be enough time to get all the weeding done or all the projects I have planned in the garden.  There will never be enough time to get my house completely de-cluttered, organized, and spotless (well, maybe if I hire a professional organizer and a cleaning lady!).  There will never be enough time to read every book I have on my constantly growing "to-read" list.

If you don't take the time to look closely, you might miss this busy little bee in the poppy.

There is a quote I've always loved: "Life is short; eat dessert first!"  As much as I like this sentiment, however, I have trouble following it.  Perhaps it's the work ethic instilled in me by my parents and their German ancestry, but I've always believed you must finish your chores before you play.   However, I've come to realize that putting work first sometimes means you miss some special moments. If you are focusing on finding weeds, you might miss the first blooms of the larkspur you thought would never grow in your garden.  If you are always looking downward, you might not see the Monarch floating through the air above you.   There will never be enough time to get everything done, so enjoy the time you have--take those precious moments to enjoy the beauty around you, whether it's the flight of a butterfly, the sudden whirr of a hummingbird, or the laughter of children.  This is a lesson I haven't quite mastered yet, but it's going to be my only New Year's resolution this year--I'm going to practice enjoying the moment.

Garden Lessons Learned is a meme sponsored each season by Beth at Plant Postings.  I had planned to finish this post in time for her Winter Solstice collection, but I missed the deadline.   I decided to finish this post anyway; after all, what better way to start the new year than to remember some valuable lessons from 2012 and strive to do better in 2013.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year and time to enjoy your garden!


  1. I'm sure this year will hold just as many amazing garden photos.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Wonderful lessons, Rose! It's never too late, and I'll add your post to the list. The photo of the Poppy with the bee is spectacular! Happy New Year!

  3. I love your lessons from the garden. I think we learn much about life while we garden, and as you said, we especially learn to work with what we have and accept the ups and down while moving forward.

    It is also good to see life and our gardens with a fresh perspective. I read what you have written and wonder what the future holds for me when it comes to gardening. We have little area for gardening where we live now, and the dear eat everything. I don't know how I will cope with that. Time will tell.

  4. I was the recipient of some of those most prolific nicotiana. Loved having them in my garden. I hope they reseed for me. This has been a different winter already though. More severe. I was happy that my camillia was under a blanket of snow when we had a record cold of -1 the other day. I am hoping it will survive. Wishing you a happy, healthy flower-filled 2013.

  5. You've thought this out well, and have taken some deep lessons from a year in the garden. And the pictures were delightful!

  6. Enjoy the moment is an excellent resolution. And I shall continue to enjoy your beautiful photos, and be encouraged by you to keep trying at my bit of garden in spite of my phenomenal lack of success!

  7. So sorry to have not spotted your previous post Rose! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, it certainly looked like you were getting off to a good start with all your little kitchen helpers :-)

    Beautiful photos on this post and a nice look back. Of course I'm sure you know my favourite photo is the lovely Painted Lady, I didnt see one at all here this year! And yes, I was so busy admiring the gorgeous poppy that I nearly missed the little bee :-)

    Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

  8. Wow --looking at those photos just makes me feel so happy. I'm glad we have winter, because I always need the down time from the garden, but I am already looking forward to seeing flowers blooming again.

  9. It is good to look at the garden as it was in the warmer weather. Makes me feel hopeful for things to come. It is good to be reminded. The longest night is now over. Always a good thing.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  10. 'Montreux' is a really lovely tulip, with that delicate, soft yellow colour and the extra petals. I will have to look out for the bulbs next fall. Is it a double early? I can already picture it flowering with some of my blue Muscari, if they bloom at the same time.

    I hope you have many special moments to cherish in 2013.

  11. Your post rings very near and dear to my heart as many of your lessons learned were lessons learned here too. Happy New Year to you.

  12. Sherlock Gardener, Finding these photos reminded me of all I have to look forward to in the coming year.

    Beth, Thanks for adding me to the list; I never seemed to find the time to finish this post during the busy holidays. The photo of the poppy was an unexpected find as I searched in my Asheville album for another photo. I had forgotten I had even taken this!

    Sally, I have learned, too, that gardening teaches you much about life--patience is definitely a quality I've had to develop in the garden. I hope you can find a small area for a garden at your new home; perhaps some planters on the deck, if nothing else?

    Lisa, I'm so glad the nicotania did well for you! Yes, this winter is already much colder than last year, so I probably won't have as many volunteers this year. My plants could use a blanket of snow!

    Laurrie, I've been feeling rather philosophical lately, I guess. But the garden is certainly a great place for learning and reflection.

  13. Hi Rose...I loved this post. We share many of the same thoughts and ideas about gardening. The picture of the salvia was beautiful and I plan on finding some of this variety for my garden. Thank you for a wonderful post! I plan on following your blog and look forward to your next post.

  14. Happy New Year, Rose! I always enjoy your annual round up post. Accepting mother nature is key, especially in northern climates. I can't even remember the color green under all the snow. I'm looking forward to seeing your garden bloom in spring.

  15. Also, I'm so glad you enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver. You might want to go back to her first novel, The Bean Trees.

  16. Thank you for this post Rose. There were some lessons here for me as well, I found myself nodding and chastising myself. Every garden really is special and I need to take the time to appreciate it as it is. I tend to always leap ahead in my mind to the next project, wanting my garden to be more than it is.

  17. You really have a well thought out post with much that we can all relate to. I am German and grew up with that same doctrine. Work first. You have so many beautiful images is is hard to know where to start. I bet it was hard for you to select them. I am partial to butterflies, well anything with wings for that matter.

  18. Happy 2013, Rose! Here's to many wonderful garden adventures for all of us!

  19. Rose, you're so clever and had many lessons from the nature. I love the picture of poppy and little bee, great!

  20. Liz, Thank you. Keep at it--I killed a lot of plants along the way to creating a garden!

    Songbird, The painted lady has been rare in my garden, too, but I did have several in late summer. I had to include a butterfly in a year-end post!

    Cassi, I need the downtime in the winter, too. It always gives me a time to re-charge and to dream about creating that perfect garden next season!

    Maggie, These photos from warmer days cheered me up, too. Every day brings a little more sunlight now!

    Northern Shade, I'm a sucker for double tulips. 'Montreux' was a new one this year and did very well. I'm pretty sure it's a mid-spring tulip, because I plant very few early-blooming ones. It might bloom at the same time as your Muscari, though when I plan a bulb combo, they usually decide to act on their own time schedules:)

    Tina, Thank you, and good to have you back after the holiday break!

  21. Amazing post, dear!

    Happy New Year!!!



  22. Great observations. That poppy photo is quite stunning.

    And... Mother Nature has the final say? Tell me about it! It's bitterly cold here, without the snow I count on as a thermal blanket to keep tender perennials warmer. So, I'm fussing and fuming about winter kill. :)

  23. Stunning photos, I love the poppy and tulip. Can't wait for spring now!

  24. Rose girl ! Happy New Year !
    You wrote some very profound things here .. I suffered from the same weather type year but we didn't even get rain relief in August .. so now with the snow we have ? I am so very grateful.
    I love "eat desert first" .. but alas I also come from German and Scottish genes that simply hate that thought .. so it is a constant struggle.
    BUT .. some where , after all of our experiences, we have to find middle ground to truly enjoy our gardens right ?
    Perhaps this year we will find more of that ground !
    Joy : )

  25. I would have left the salvias too Rose - that's a gorgeous combination. We don't get a lot of self-seeding here. Sometimes I'm sorry about that but maybe I should count the lack of some of those 'blessings!'

    Beautiful photos, and lots of astute observations. I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

    Happy New Year!

  26. Beautiful post Rose, and some good things for this gardener to keep in mind too. Hope you have a wonderful 2013, and I do hope you can make it to the Fling this year and we can spend more time together than we did in Asheville!

  27. Happy New Year Rose. Love the pictures and I do hope you have enjoyed this day. A resolution deserving a bit more attention. Remember, it takes practice.

  28. Happy New Year Rose. I am so glad we got to meet this spring. Felt like we knew each other for a long time.
    I had Salvia 'Victoria Blue' in VA and boy did it take over. Really crowded out many other plants. Now I have the room, but haven't planted it yet.

  29. Happy New Year Rose! It was a strange year for gardening indeed. I would say my biggest treat was meeting bloggers such as yourself. Only wish we had more time to chat with ya. Putting faces to blog names is wonderful. If ever we are on another spring fling, I had better find myseld on your bus so we can have that chat time girl....

  30. What a beauttiful review of your year. I've been sick ever since Christmas, but you have inspired me to do a similar review - as soon as I stop being a poor baby.

  31. Christy, Thanks for visiting--I'm glad you've joined this wonderful community of bloggers!

    Sarah, I'm putting "The Bean Trees" on my reading list!

    Marguerite, I think we share a similar attitude--I'm always wanting a bigger, more beautiful garden:)

    Donna, All too often I think of the "work" I have to do in the garden, rather than just appreciating the way it is. I'm going to work on this this year.

    Cindy, Thank you; it was wonderful getting to visit with you again in Asheville!

    Nadezda, Thank you; the funny thing is I don't think I saw that bee until I downloaded the photo.

    Bonnie, Thanks for visiting!

    Kate, My garden could use a blanket of snow, too--just not so much I have to shovel to get out:)

    Suburbia, Looking through photos made me long for spring, too.

    Joy, My goal this year is to enjoy playing in the garden, not working in it!

    Linda, I've had a few salvias self-seed before, but not like this year. I'm sure the mild winter had much to do with it, so I doubt I'll have this problem again this season.

  32. Jean, Thank you! I probably won't make it to San Francisco this year, but I definitely have Charleston on my planner for 2014.

    Layanee, You're so right--a resolution like this takes as much practice and perseverance as vowing to exercise more.

    Janet, I'm so glad to have met you in May, too! I agree--I felt as if we had known each other for a long time. The salvias are one of my favorite annuals, so I'm pretty forgiving of their habits.

    Rose, I hope your new year is going well!

    Skeeter, Asheville was a highlight of the year for me. I'll save you a seat on the bus next time!

    Pat, I do hope you're feeling better soon. I came down with something last weekend and know how hard it is to shake it off.

  33. Thanks all for visiting--my computer has been acting up lately, so I haven't been able to visit everyone as much as I wish. Now I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to catch up--I'll be taking a blogging break for awhile. I hope to get a post up early next week to explain.

    See you in the spring!

  34. Rose,
    Loved your photos and reflections on 2012. It was wonderful to meet you in Asheville! Here's hoping our paths will cross this year.

  35. Lovely retrospect, Rose. Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2013! P. x

  36. I love your post Rose. Ik wish you and your family a wonderful 2013.

  37. What beautiful images and thoughts to begin a new year with, Rose! I'll take your words to heart and try to slow down a bit. It might help me stay on my activity diet: stop adding more things to an already overloaded plate!


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