By Mel Bellar

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions. I know better than to say I am going to commit to going to the gym, saving money or losing weight.  More reasonably, I should resolve to clean out the basement or some closets, but I don’t enjoy setting myself up for likely failure. And yes, committing to resolutions in public is a little over the top in terms of accountability.  Makes me feel like I am mandated to follow through—not my favorite position to be in.

However, I care so much about my readers and strive to be a good garden therapist and thus have decided to make some garden resolutions for 2020 and hope to encourage you all to do the same. Nothing too wild and crazy or aiming too high, but I want us all to commit to doing one or two specific tasks that we have been avoiding for years.  Do it and it will put us on top of the world… at least for a couple of days.

Let’s start with something simple:  REMOVE. I bet we all have some perennial that we just don’t like anymore but have been putting off ripping it out. Personally, I have lots of those!  There are plenty of thugs, floppers and reseeders that I am just over. Henceforth, I am committing to removing some of these this year. Firstly, I am going to take all of the Helenium autumnale (Common Sneezeweed) out. It not only gets way too tall and flops but it also spreads by rhizomes and reseeds all over as well. It is in several places in one of my gardens, so it is going to be a real pain to accomplish but oh, how gratifying to have it gone. Next, I resolve to remove some of the very tall grasses that have grown too big for their spot and flop into the paths. Now I want you to pick some plant that is seriously getting on your nerves and vow to extract it this year:  Jerusalem artichokes? Gooseneck Loosestrife? Phlox that get mildew? (That’s another one on my list.)  Look at it like doing a Marie Kondo in the garden.  Taking something out also means that you can buy something new to put in. If you are at all a gardener, you can certainly relate to that.

Let’s up that ante and pick something a little harder: RESTRUCTURE. There is usually an area of the garden that has something going on that is getting worse over time, and we turn a willfully blind eye to it because it is going to be a pain to address. It could be a shrub that is getting too big for its spot and is choking everything around it. Maybe you have a tree that is about to threaten the power lines or maybe it is just an area where the weeds have gotten out of hand and the bed needs to be dug up and started over. Again, I have a lot of these and anyone with a property that is more than turfgrass probably does as well.

One of my problem areas is where I planted a shrub honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) to try it out, maybe 6 years ago, over in the back of the main garden between the fence and a gardener’s path. There was also some burgundy bee balm (not my favorite) left over in that area and some yellow loosestrife, among other things. Oh yeah, and there is some Carolina Lupine that I want to save and feature.  Google Thermopsis villosa; it is a really cool native plant that is similar to a very tall yellow lupine that adds a lot to the garden, but unfortunately the deer seem to have developed a taste for it. Hereby, I commit to you and myself that I am going to dig out the shrub honeysuckle and put it somewhere else where it can go wild and look great.  Also, I am going to lose the burgundy monarda, the loosestrife, and have an area for SOME NEW PLANTS!

I encourage you to pick some area in your garden (it can be very small) to do something hard, like pruning (or removing) a big shrub that has been bugging you for years. Or you might dig up a bed overrun with weeds and put in some hydrangeas.  Come on now, you can come up with something and commit; then you will thank me when it is done.

There are many more things on my list, but I am not going to make the mistake of overcommitting. I will use some restraint and I am also going to try and refuse any offers to be on garden tours this year so that I can do some revamping and be ready to make a big splash in 2021.

Mel Bellar is the owner of Zone4 Landscapes and a passionate Andes gardener.~