Resolving Resolutions!

It’s what everybody talks about this time of year. Even those who don’t make resolutions. I fall into that category. Sort of. Let me explain.


With age, has come some wisdom. I know not to set myself up for broken resolutions. Isn’t that what happens to most resolves? So I got tired of the guilt and sense of falling short of my expectations. I do indeed want to cultivate healthy habits, be a better person etc., but those, I decided, are life long goals. Each day I try to eat well, exercise, be positive, make a difference, be loving and so on. Some days are more successful than others. I don’t beat myself up on the not so great days. Every sunrise opens a new day to try again.


At the start of a new year, I review my big goals. Then I resolve to keep the ball rolling forward in each of those areas. Each day I move ahead in the right direction. On some days only inches are gained and on others, leaps are made. It’s all positive. And every degree of effort matters.


For purposes of this column, I’ll stick to gardening resolutions. In truth, as always, everything can be extrapolated to other areas of life.


Review the past year in the garden. What was successful and what was not. And why it was so. Knowing the reason is important if you want to learn. Think about what work was enjoyable, doable, difficult or neglected. How the tasks are perceived will explain a great deal about the garden itself. If you don’t remember to deadhead then naturally, the plants were a bit messy looking and went to seed quickly. Ditto for weeding.


Having done this, ask yourself if you’re reasonably satisfied with the overall performance. Yours as well as that of the garden. An honest answer will quite naturally point you to the appropriate approach for the ensuing year. Often you can be well satisfied even if there are areas you know that need rethinking or improvement. Again, that’s in the garden and yourself. Garden and gardener are usually evaluated together.


Things that failed are often more valuable in teaching us. With successes, one has a tendency to bask in it and simply repeat the same action. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, taking the time to understand the why of the success is neglected. After all, if it ain’t broke why fix it right? Failure on the other hand forces a confrontation. Which then leads to enlightenment. In the end, it is precisely that which makes us become better gardeners. Information gained in one project will be found useful elsewhere as well.


Let me give an example. A couple of years ago, I designed two almost identical perennial beds for a client. They were to give symmetry to an ordinary level path that led to the terrace. The new beds looked lovely. Having all the same growing conditions, the two beds were expected to thrive equally. And they did in the first year. However, from the second season on, one bed began to struggle for no apparent reason. The shrubs in particular were having a hard time. We tried replacing with new, healthy ones but again, they did not do well. With all things being equal, this was puzzling. The client even suggested we take out all the ‘failures’ and go with just the successes. That would’ve been easy. But I couldn’t let it rest at that. There was a reason for the problem and I had to find it.

Poring over old and new plans of the property, I saw that one bed was above a very old, long forgotten septic tank. The path separating the beds was a boundary of sorts. The reason the shrubs were unable to grow was because their roots quickly hit the concrete roof of the tank thus stunting their growth.


So instead of identical beds, we went for dissimilar ones. This actually proved to be even more striking in appearance than the first design. You see?


To sum up, there are no garden failures. Instead, think of everything as a lesson. Some are just harder than others. And as for the new year’s resolutions, plan on learning a whole lot more this year, do something useful in the garden every day, be accountable and keep moving forward.


I wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2013.


(c) Shobha Vanchiswar 2013

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1 thought on “Resolving Resolutions!

  1. Feeling a bit sad this morning – new year’s day – for many reasons. Your column certainly lifted me up and made me feel so much better. If it wasn’t covered in snow, I would go out and do something in my tiny garden to insure a better spring for it.
    Happy New Year and thank you.

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