Gardening – January 2024 – Alison Agnew

It’s time to stop regretting last year’s failings, both personal and gardening, and resolve to do better.  Alison Agnew, our gardening expert, offers up her list of 10 new year resolutions. Will they resonate with you?

1. Not to spend a minute indoors that could be spent outside.

Just be outside
Just be outside







2. When I do have to be inside I’ll bring more of the garden with me.

I don’t pick enough flowers for the house partly because I resent losing them from the beds so I’m going to increase the picking element of the kitchen garden.  I’m not a great flower arranger but I love a really giant display often of a single species so I’ll cut down a whole plant of Cosmos or Ammi.

Also, some lovely flowers just don’t fit into my planting schemes – like many of the fashionable soft peachy beige colours of Dahlia and Chrysanthemum.

Ammi majus
Ammi majus








Peachy flowers
Peachy flowers








3. Learn to enjoy weeding.

Actually it’s already more bearable since I discovered Audible – Moby Dick absorbed an entire border clean up!

4. Plant more ground-cover so that I don’t have to learn to enjoy weeding.

This involves actively propagating the ground covers that I already have but somehow this never seems be a priority until the weeding becomes overwhelming. Most good ground covers are recumbent and root along the length of the plant so its dead easy to pull a clump apart and pot up short lengths – but do I do it? Maybe this year…

Parachetus communis
Easy ground cover Parochetus communis flowering in December









5. Take the time to look at the big picture.

I won’t let my eyes focus on the failures, the weeds, the occasional mismatch of colours.  I will focus instead on the overall shapes and impact. Have I got it generally right?

6. Take the time to look at the small and intimate.

There is so much beauty in the details, seed pods, bugs, the texture of petals and the patterns of leaves. This is the most relaxing occupation in the garden because it doesn’t ask you to do anything – just enjoy.

Argemone seedpod
Seed pod of Argemone Prickly poppy








Calendula with cricket
Calendula with cricket








7. Take out more trees.

I have been taking a critical look at the existing trees in our garden and looking to the future.  Which trees are ugly, misshapen, overcrowded or in the wrong place?

We have been removing some gloomy old Cupressus leylandii that were, at least, useful windbreaks until they started blowing over and threatening the house.  Now they are best used for firewood.  There are two more to go plus a very sad Ash tree suffering Ash dieback disease.  There is also a very weedy native oak – a poor specimen even before it was ripped to bits by Storm Antoni. Several limbs of our Monterey pines (Pinus quadrangularis) have died and need to be cut back before they break.

Old Cupressus
Ugly old Cupressus leylandii








 8. Plant more trees – plant for the future with the right tree in the right place.

The replacements for the Cupressus have to cope with the westerly winds and are a field boundary so we are replacing with silver birch (Betula utilis Snow Queen) which filters the wind without breaking and is a more gentle visual transition into the countryside. The oak has already had a replacement planted nearby – a red oak (Quercus coccinea) which is fast growing and has lovely autumn colour.  I may not be here to see their full glory but I’m planting trees now for the next generation.

Quercus coccinea
Quercus coccinea in autumn








9. Spend more time my own garden enjoying it instead of critiquing it.

I am a restless user of my garden.  It is difficult to sit and enjoy without noticing a weed or a rose that needs a quick dead heading. I will take a cushion or a chair, a book and a glass of something nice and just lounge about a bit.

10. Go out and critique other peoples gardens instead!

 It is refreshing to go and visit other gardens both public and domestic.  Domestic gardens rarely boast a grand view – like this one at Tresco Abbey but more intimate spaces, thoughtfully planted can be just as rewarding.

Its also fun to find fault in a professional garden – sometimes the planting can be truly awful – again my image is from Tresco Abbey – discordant both in style and colour.  Even my worst bits of planting are better than that!!!

Tresco Abbey Gardens
Tresco Abbey Gardens








Tresco Abbey planting
Tresco Abbey planting






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