December Decisions

I’m far away from my garden at present. For the past week, I’ve been in the very lush, very green city-state of Singapore. It’s also very warm and humid. While I’m enamored with the natural beauty of the dense plantings, it’s been challenging to spend long hours wandering outdoors. Still, one cannot but revel in a country that has chosen to invest significantly in environmental sustainability. The rest of us would do well to emulate this example.

So, not withstanding the joy of visiting with family and partaking of the myriad culinary offerings that Singapore is renowned for, I’ve been inspired by all the plantings to think about my own garden and how I can do better.

As I’d indicated last month, November is when I review how the garden performed through the year. Just observations, no judgments or justifications. Simply things of significance to note. December is when I reflect on those notes. The hows and whys are considered.

The strange, wet summer resulted in several plants doing poorly. Some failed to bear flower or fruit. Others struggled to grow and still others thrived. How and why did this happen? Rain prevented timely pollination, plants in areas that got water logged were unhappy, others on higher ground loved the rain. This tells me if I need to relocate or replace certain plants – that’s something within my power. However, I cannot control shifting weather patterns and its impact on pollination. I check the plants who showed resilience – perhaps more of those should be introduced in the garden. Edit the members that do not have the staying power of a changing climate.

I reflect on how my designs fared. The success or failure of color schemes. My choices of plants need adjusting and adapting all the time. How can to do better is a constant quest. I learn all the time. My focus is to grow mostly native plants most adapted to my area. Within this lot, I look for form and function – they must look good, integrate well with the whole design, attract pollinators, provide color/shape/texture/movement/structure/flowers and/or fruit. Staying power through all the seasons is a bonus.

This is the time to think about what is lacking, where the gaps are. I take into account soil conditions, surrounding tree growth that has changed an area from sunny to more shady and, other growth requirements.

Similarly, I go over my notes, if any, from November about the hardscape. Did the wet summer rot a fence post or was it carpenter bees making too many holes in it? That factor would need me to consider if a simple replacement is sufficient or must I change the choice of the material of all the posts. Faded or peeling paint of structures or outdoor furniture, a pathways that isn’t quite intuitive – does it need tweaking or a whole relaying.

I make notes and then depending on the answers to all the questions, I do the necessary research to eliminate problems, introduce new plants or more of old ones, take out or bring in a special feature, plan a wholly different section. December provides a gardener with the luxury of time to really think about all the minutiae. Stuff that easily gets overlooked at other times but contributes enormously to the success of gardening.

Personally, I find this exercise a wonderful antidote to all the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season. It provides a mental escape and the satisfaction of knowing at the end of which awaits a proper plan of action to start the New Year on the right footing.

Happy Holidays one and all. I’ll be back in the New Year. And now, I return to enjoying my time in equatorial Singapore.

Note: Some scenes from Singapore – Horticulture, art, street scenes and such.

(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar

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