By Jimmie Gibson

Garden Resolution No. 1: Experiment With Form and Texture

Flowers can spruce up a landscape, but sometimes we become way too dependent on annual color, ignoring the value that other plant features can bring to a yard, especially when it’s "off season" for flowers. Nor does the answer lie solely in the use of fall foliage trees or smaller foliage shrubs. A large clump of ornamental grass can add great interest to a winter landscape, as can trees and shrubs with interesting branching patterns, such as Coral Bark Japanese Maple tree. That bright red bark is quite eye catching. With this observation, we enter the world of plant form and texture.

Garden Resolution No. 2: Appreciate Your Plants

After going through a long winter, plant lovers are often guilty of going crazy at the nursery in the spring. We buy too many different kinds of trees, shrubs and perennials all at once — one of this, one of that. This, despite the fact that one of the most important principles to remember when designing your own landscape is that masses of the same plant can have a much bigger visual impact in planting beds.

Admittedly, sometimes it’s more satisfying to walk into the nursery and buy a smorgasbord of individual plants. But that’s just for one day. How to derive the most satisfaction from your plants over the long term is an issue of much greater importance, don’t you think? There’s something to be said for turning our attention to more fully appreciating each and every plant we end up growing in our gardens each season.

Garden Resolution No. 3: Look for the Details

There are so many small details worth admiring. I find I derive maximum satisfaction from my garden when I slow down long enough to admire what’s already there, properly, before adding too much more before some good thought. To that end, I recommend carrying around a magnifying glass when in the garden, just kidding. But do pay attention to smaller plants that may have a bigger impact than you give them credit for. Or perhaps your pretty satisfied and just want to add a few small things? Those small changes can make a world of difference.

Garden Resolution No. 4: Raise Your Gardening to a New Level

Perhaps a bad back precludes your stooping over with a magnifying glass to appreciate the details of plants on the ground, consider growing your plants in raised beds, which effectively bring the plants up to your level. Of course, it’s also easier to maintain plants in raised beds. Raised beds also tend to have much better drainage for your plants as well.

Garden Resolution No. 5: Keep a Garden Journal

But don’t stop there. At the next level of commitment, the plant appreciator keeps a garden journal. Keeping a garden journal will allow you to record the changes in your plants, as they progress through the seasons — and from year to year, if you have the discipline to stick with it that long.

And if you’re even a bit more committed to "making a connection" with your plants and thereby appreciating them to the fullest, snap photos of them at different junctures along the way. A close-up lens comes in handy for this but isn’t absolutely necessary. The photos can be incorporated in your garden journal. I find the easiest way to keep such a journal can be on your computer. For instance, to chart the progress of Magnolia tree, create a "Magnolia Tree" folder.

Garden Resolution No. 6 — Turn Plants Into Vacation Memories

Here’s another great way to make a connection with a particular plant:

Going on vacation? When making a trip by car, take note (pictures can be even better if possible) of any plant that really catches your eye, as you observe what the locals are growing in their landscapes. Then try to find a nursery in that same area, where you can make inquiries concerning the availability and growing requirements of that plant. Of course (depending on where you’re vacationing), you may quickly find out that it won’t grow in your own planting zone. But assuming the plant in question is growable back home, consider buying it, as a souvenir of your trip.

There are, to be sure, drawbacks in buying plants on vacation. For example:

You have to care for them (get them out of a hot car and into your hotel room as quickly as possible, and water them)

They take up room in a car that is probably already crammed full with luggage and impatient children.

But on the plus side, thereafter you’ll always associate the plant with the vacation.

Garden Resolution No. 7 — Don’t Be a Garden Snob

Many of us "serious" gardeners could profit from lightening up considerably in our approach to landscaping. Just because plant are "dirt common," such as the popular annual flowers, that doesn’t necessarily mean our high and mighty gardens are too good to be "soiled" by such riffraff. Looked at objectively, annuals can be viewed as a reservoir of color that you can "dip into" as filler during periods when your perennials have run into a "blooming drought." And always remember what one person doesn’t really care for the next person would drive across the country to get one. Until next time… Happy Gardening!

Jimmie

Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at jimmie@absolutelybushed.com or in care of the Prosper Press at rhays@prosperpressnews.com Jimmie is the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company. He is a resident in Prosper. His landscaping and gardening column runs every other week in the Prosper Press.