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Mickey Rathbun: 2018 New Year’s Resolutions for the Gardener

  • A lovely, winter day scene evoking Christmas, winter and cosy nights in as well as gardening on hold until spring! Use this image for cards, gifts, your winter blog or website. Taken in my own garden, this fork and spade leaning on an old tree stump lie forgotten and snow covered. Chris Cafferkey—Getty Images/iStockphoto


Thursday, January 04, 2018

It’s that time of year, for better or worse. I keep reading about people who say that they’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions because they never manage to keep them and end up frustrated and depressed. Oh, well. I think gardening resolutions are different.

As the days are starting to get longer, it’s a great time to start thinking about what worked and what didn’t in last year’s garden. And to make plans for improving next year’s garden. It’s a pleasant way to contemplate the joy and satisfaction that gardening brings, whether we keep all our resolutions or not.

Here are some resolutions to consider, from the practical to the recreational:

1) Clean up and organize your gardening tools, if, like most of us, you didn’t get around to that in the flurry of late fall activities. Clean, sharpen and oil your tools so they’ll be ready and waiting when it’s time to get busy in the spring. You’ll be so glad you did.

2) Be generous. When you divide perennials in the spring, offer them to friends and neighbors. If your neighborhood happens to have a public space that some kind person tends year after year, find out who this is and offer to help. At home, make a garden that provides roadside interest, if you have the appropriate space for it.

3) Start a gardening diary. I do this in fits and starts every year, but I confess I sometimes scribble things on bits of paper, promising myself I’ll enter them into a systematic, chronological log for future reference. And then…So this year, I will buy myself a beautiful date book with plenty of room for notes about what I planted when and other things that I forget over time. And I’ll do my best to write in it as often as possible. And I’ll also do my best not to feel bad when I find weeks of blank pages behind me.

4) Wear sun-sensible clothing when you’re out in the garden. That means a hat with a brim, high SPF sunscreen and long pants and sleeves. There are lots of good, sun-protective clothes on the market that keep you cool and protected from the sun’s rays. Your skin and hair will thank you for covering up.

5) Start composting. Transform all the trimmings from your kitchen, lawn and garden into dark, rich compost. Remember to peel tags off fruits and vegetable skins or they’ll turn up when you spread your compost! There are lots of ways to compost, depending on available space and materials. I’m tempted to try one of those spinning compost bins so I don’t have to spend so much time turning the pile with a pitchfork.

6) Take a garden tour, or two or three. In addition to many local garden tours throughout the spring and summer, there are fabulous historic gardens and houses within a couple of hours drive. Here are just a few suggestions: Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, just outside of Boston. This beautiful 265-acre site is filled with trees, vines and shrubs, including renowned collections of lilacs, crabapples, rhododendrons and maples. There’s a good self-guided tour. Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut includes the country’s oldest municipally operated rose garden, featuring 15,000 bushes of 800 rose varieties. Hildene in Manchester, Vermont, is the former home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert. It has a lovely cutting and kitchen garden as well as perennial and rose gardens and walking trails.

Botanical Art by Anastasia Traina 

Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge has a new exhibition in its Center House Leonhardt Galleries: “Anastasia Traina’s Fairytale Botanical World.” The exhibition contains a collection of more than 50 drawings representing the artist’s enchanting depiction of botanical subjects and fairy themes using pen and ink, silverpoint, watercolor, graphite and colored pencil.

BBG’s newly renovated and restored Center House is considered to be one of the oldest structures in Stockbridge. The main gallery will feature Traina’s relocated work desk, styled as it exists in her own studio, with tables and cloches scattered throughout. A small, naturally lit gallery and temporary home to a cyclopean tree gnome will be hung with prisms to create beams of reflected light, and a children’s art table and bench will be stocked with paper and crayons to inspire drawings of fairies, elves and flowers.

Anastasia Traina is a playwright, screenwriter and botanical artist. Recently, her illustrations were published in the children’s book, ”BITSY and RAFF” written by David Caudle highlighting the power of friendship and inclusion. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Art, the Tri-State Botanical Artists of NYBG, the Writer’s Guild of America and the Dramatists Guild of America.

The exhibition opens Saturday with a member’s reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Gallery hours are weekends, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and weekdays by appointment by calling 413-320-4794. For more information, go to: berkshirebotanical.org.

 Hadley Garden Center winter clinics

This popular, informative winter series starts up again on Jan. 13 with a session on backyard birding. 1 p.m. Admission is free, but come early because space fills up fast. 285 Russell St. (Route 9) Hadley. Call 584-1423 for more information.

UMass Garden Calendar Photo Contest

Have you ever taken a great garden photo and thought “this would be perfect for the UMass Garden Calendar”? UMass Extension is pleased to announce that it is now accepting calendar photos submitted by the public.

Submissions will be judged by the calendar team at UMass Extension and may earn a spot in the 2019 Garden Calendar. Winning photographers will be credited in the Garden Calendar and will receive five free calendars. Photos must be submitted by April 1 in order to be considered for the 2019 calendar. For more details on photo requirements, go to: ag.umass.edu/landscape/publications

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.