If you’re also working to plot your intentions for the new year, here are some suggestions, from good ground covers to tree-tending.
GARDENERS BELIEVE in the future. We plant for tomorrow, next month, next year and our children’s generation. The New Year is here, and tradition insists we plot our intentions. So I thought I’d share a few of my gardening resolutions for 2019.
• Boost winter interest. When the sun barely rises in time to set again, and with our shoulders hunched against the chill, it’s all too easy to fall into a groggy garden funk. So plant some distraction. Undaunted by the cold and dark, ‘Arthur Menzies’ mahonia is a bright star in the winter garden. The dramatic, vase-shaped plant grows to around 8 feet tall, and from November through February, its inky-green foliage is crowned with sprays of golden flowers, which prove irresistible to overwintering Anna’s hummingbirds. Luscious blue berries adorn the plant in late summer.
• Cover the ground. Bare soil is unnatural. Sure, you could mulch with compost or wood chips, but what if you followed nature’s lead and simply added more plants? Groundcovers play an important functional role in your garden. These typically low-profile plants might not be as showy as your favorite garden perennial, but by knitting plants together, holding soil in place and filling in gaps to prevent a weed invasion, they effectively create a living mulch. One of my favorite garden-making techniques is to establish a mixed tapestry of compatible ground covers: Think ajuga, creeping thyme and ground-hugging sedum in sun, or Corsican mint, creeping jenny, and Scotch or Irish moss in shade. A mixed planting is more attractive than a uniform carpet of a single plant and better accommodates the natural ebb and flow of seasonal growth.
• Promote diversity. Like I said, more is better. More flowers, more plants, more life. Annuals — plants that sprout, bloom and die in a single growing season — are a secret weapon for building additional layers of color and bloom into your existing garden. Easy-to-grow calendula, poppies, larkspur, love-in-a-mist and clarkia, to name but a few, are hardy annuals that flourish in Pacific Northwest gardens and gracefully complement perennial plantings. And their blossoms provide valuable pollen and nectar for the insects, birds and butterflies that animate our gardens with flight and movement.
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• Tend to trees. Garden writer and plantsman Ken Druse wrote in his 2015 book, “The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change,” “The garden of the future will be a shade garden.” Last summer was one of the hottest on record in the Northwest. We need to cool things down. Cherish your existing tree canopy by protecting the root zone: No digging or mowing beneath branches; this is the time to lay down 2 to 4 inches of woody mulch to suppress weeds and preserve soil moisture. Provide supplemental water when things get dry, especially in late summer. Never top a tree. Never. Oh, and if you’ve got the space, plant a young tree. Your local nursery professional can help you select the right plant for your landscape. And future generations will thank you.