Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: "In the Garden" by Stacy Bass

"In the Garden" was published in 2012 and is culmination of Stacy Bass' decade-long career as a photographer of gardens for magazines such as Horticulture, Garden Design and House Beautiful. She is certainly a very talented photographer, with an ability to show us the beauty of plant materials and lovely garden settings, and "In the Garden" is indeed beautifully photographed. The reader can see the dew glistening on leaves and petals and Bass has captured the magic of 18 Connecticut gardens during what she calls in her introduction "those precious, fleeting moments as the sun is ready to rise... that sweet and gentle light, coupled often with a morning mist or fog."

Who wouldn't want to visit such a garden?

The gardens themselves are uniformly lovely and certainly worthy of being included in this book. They range from small yards lovingly planted to magnificent old-money estates impressively landscaped. There are well-designed kitchen and cutting gardens, flowery bowers, formal boxwood parterres, shady Asian-inspired pond gardens, as well as wilder areas such as orchards, fields and marshy yards along Long Island Sound.

Or one such as this?

However, I don't believe that Bass is a serious gardener herself, which shows in both her photographs and in the design of her book.

For most avid gardeners, students of garden design and serious visitors of gardens, when they read books that describe and depict gardens they want to understand the "essence of place" that is unique to each garden. Such books should be the next best thing to actually walking around a garden in person, which many people are not able to do because of distance, physical and/or budget limitations, or the private status of the gardens.

A beautiful fenced cutting garden.

In order for armchair garden visitors to understand the essence of a garden, it is necessary to know a number of things:

  1. Where a garden is located (both its region and its setting, whether rural, small-town, suburban or urban) and how its location influenced the garden
  2. The basic history of the garden (the age of the house, the property and the garden, and how it developed over many years or in only a few years)
  3. The relationship of the garden to the house, in style and layout
  4. Any significant plant collections or garden areas
  5. Something about the maker(s) of the garden (the reasons behind the garden; how much experience the gardener(s) have had -- is the gardener a professional landscaper or a little old lady who made the garden over a period of 50 years with her husband?; any specific influences on the garden such as extensive travel in the Far East, etc.)
  6. The basic layout of the property, orienting it to the four cardinal directions, showing the relationship of the garden areas to each other and to any major landscape features such as mountains, large bodies of water, ancient forests, farm fields, etc. A basic property map is very helpful.
  7. The climate of the garden, temperature ranges, sun patterns, significant wind directions, type(s) of soil, and any other conditions that aided or discouraged the making of the garden  
  8. Whenever possible, photos should be taken over the course of a year, so that the garden can be seen through the changing seasons

A lovely photo of a dew-covered peony, but despite
the unique beauty of each flower, including
more flower closeups means fewer photos and text
that show readers about the garden itself.

Unfortunately, this book (and most other books that present short portraits of gardens) does not allow enough space for written material about each garden, in order to allow more space for lovely photographs. (I don't know whether the author of the written garden introductions in this book, Suzanne Gannon, who mostly covers interior design for magazines, is an experienced enough gardener to cover these points, had she been allowed the space to do so.) This type of book should undoubtedly feature fewer gardens in more depth, so as to satisfy gardeners' longings for more meaningful armchair visits.

Also, in my opinion the book contains far too many closeup shots of flowers (I guess photographers love these), and not enough photographs that show the overall layout of the gardens and their relationship to their houses and settings. This seems like the art of the photographer getting in the way of transmitting the art of the gardener.

In fact, for nearly half of the gardens, no photographs of the houses are included at all. This might be out of concern for the privacy of the garden owners, or perhaps because a house simply doesn't photograph well...

Lovely, but again, something is missing.
A large, mysterious presence that is always just
out of sight....
...but whatever the reason, since the relationship of house to garden is of primary significance in residential gardens, omitting the house leaves garden portraits feeling lopsided and empty, and greatly impedes the reader's understanding of each garden.

House and garden shown together.
What could be more right?

Again, this book is chock full of beautiful photos of flowers and gardens, but readers who are serious about gardening or garden design may be left wanting more. (For a book as seriously written as it is photographed, see "The New English Garden" by Tim Richardson and photographer Andrew Lawson.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: "Gardening the Amana Way" by Larry Rettig

Living only about 20 miles from Amana as the crow flies and having read Larry Rettig's articles on the Dave's Garden website, I was aware of his historical Amana garden, and I was very excited to see that he has published a book about his own garden and traditional Amana gardening.

The first three chapters give a brief overview of the history of the Amana communal villages where he lives and gardens (a German religious group fleeing persecution in the 19th century left Germany and started a religious commune in New York state before relocating to cheaper land in Eastern Iowa in the 1850s).

I was aware of the Amanas' general history, but Rettig's lively retelling filled in important details in an enjoyable-to-read way, and fascinatingly, focused on the life of one particular emigrant who was instrumental in bringing the tradition of ornamental flower gardening to the Amanas.

Amana commune residents plowing and raking
a kitchen garden in spring.
As a strict religious community, non-productive gardening (not vegetables and fruits) had been verboten until this man's background opened the door to planting flowers. (I have noticed that interest in gardening in Iowa still centers around vegetable gardening -- if you mention you are planting a garden, people nearly always assume you mean vegetables.)

And the Amana residents produced with a vengeance in their communal gardens, as Rettig illustrates: included in the book are astounding historical photos of workers alongside the tons of potatoes, cabbages, lettuces, etc. that were grown and processed by the religious order, along with details about how each vegetable was grown.

Tons of cabbages were cleaned, cored and shredded
to make hundreds of gallons of sauerkraut. Yikes!

A short chapter covers the vegetables grown today by Rettig's wife, Wilma, giving details about some of the more unusual historical varieties that they grow and save seeds for in the seed bank they started in the 1980s.

This is only a part of the huge vegetable garden
grown by Rettig and his wife.

But then we get to the subject that is obviously closest to Rettig's heart: his lovingly designed ornamental gardens. A detailed tour of his garden areas, with a number of color photos in the center section of the book, guides us though the gardens he has labored over since Wilma inherited the house in 1984 (the house has been in her family for over a century).

The Amana brick house, built in 1900, that has been in
Wilma Rettig's family for over a century.

Much detail is given about Rettig's favorite plants, some of which are quite rare in the United States, and he relates some of his gardening philosophy, as well as giving a few tips for planting times in spring and other advice. (Note: A map of the layout of his garden would have been very helpful while reading the garden tour section, but those are lamentably rare in garden books.)

The side of the house. The flowering tree is a
Chinese seven-son tree, a still relatively rare,
but easy to grow tree that blooms in August with
white double blossoms in clusters of seven.

A short chapter of heirloom recipes and a final chapter covering garden crafts wraps up what is an enjoyable and knowledgeable book about the history of Amana gardens as well as about one man's gardening life. There are very few books about gardening in Iowa, and this is a valuable and welcome addition.

The small adjoining Kinderschul cottage, built in 1869
as a daycare building for the commune workers, that
Rettig restored and uses for garden tool storage.

And after reading about his gardens, I'm tempted to take up Rettig's generous offer of personal tours when warm weather comes again to Iowa. I look forward to experiencing in person the beautiful gardens he has made and written about in this nearby community with such a fascinating history.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: "The Education of a Gardener" by Russell Page

A classic garden design book
Has it really been ten days since I last posted? Yes, and this is because I have spent the past two weeks reading "The Education of a Gardener" by Russell Page, a book that is not only a classic among garden books, but also more challenging to read and absorb than most garden books.

"The Education" was published in 1962, and is essentially an autobiography of a life spent designing gardens, mostly in Europe and England. Russell Page (1906-1985) is today regarded as one of the great landscape designers of the 20th century.

Born in England, he designed gardens ranging from small town gardens in Paris to extensive formal gardens for French chateaux, cliffs-edge gardens overlooking the Mediterranean and the park-like setting of the stately pile at Longleat House in Wiltshire, England. His clients included the Duke of Windsor, Prince Aly Khan, an assortment of various kings, duchesses and barons, sundry captains of industry and a number of museums and public gardens.

Il Carpeneto, near Turin, Italy. Impressive, yes?

His book is a compendium of his thoughts about the process of working out the problems of designing gardens for these mostly illustrious clients, and in that vein, it is a fascinating glimpse into a rarefied world that most of us will never otherwise encounter. And it is written with the wit and command of the English language displayed by the men and women educated before WWII at British public schools.

However, it is not a book from which the average person, who likes to plant a few flowers and veg on his little plot, will learn about "how to garden." It is, rather, intended as advice for other landscape designers concerning how to design gardens for people who are not gardeners themselves.

Villa Silvio Pellico, near Turin, Italy

A major issue with "The Education" is that the book contains only a very limited number of small,
black and white photos of gardens that Page designed. Gardening is largely a visual art, and it was difficult to picture what Page tried, often at some length, to describe about various gardens. (It's as if a book about paintings contained hardly any reproductions of those paintings, only lengthy written descriptions of them. The reader would still have no idea what the paintings themselves actually looked like after reading the book. A picture is truly worth far more than a thousand words in this case.) I understand that not many photos of Page's work survived and the gardens themselves are mostly no longer extant (and publishing technology in 1962 was limited and costly), but this is, nevertheless, a major failing in a book about gardening and makes it much less useful to readers.

Another issue is the sections of the book that cover plant materials. I found it pretty hard-going to slog through lengthy paragraphs listing numerous Latin names of species that do not grow in the colder zones of the world and that I therefore have no familiarity with. My eyes often glazed over and I found myself skipping chunks of text during these chapters.

However, the book's lack of application for recreational gardeners isn't due to the scale and expense or the exotic locations of the gardens that Page designed; his principles can certainly be applied to small town gardens and there is even a chapter in his book devoted to such gardens.

Rather, the major impediment is Page's ascetic restraint in his use of materials. His mission, when deciding how to enhance the existing landscape of a place, was to figure out what the main idea or feeling of a place should be (the genius loci), and then remove nearly everything else that did not contribute to that "wonder of wholeness and unity." This required a strictly limited palette of plants and other materials. Grass, trees, hedges and perhaps a large formal pool are the materials he mostly worked in. Above all, restraint was his mantra.

Flowers, if permitted at all, were a severely restrained affair, limited to a few formal planting blocks or large pots of annuals, or relegated to a far corner in a walled garden if the property owner unreasonably insisted on having flowers.

A few daffodils are permitted at the Fresnay le Bouffard in France. A lovely setting to be sure, 
but not what I call a garden.

Of course, this floral banishment is completely out of keeping with what most recreational gardeners want in their gardens today: flowers, vegetables and a variety of other beautiful plants, and Page acknowledges this. I suspect it's probably the main reason he worked mostly in France: as he pointed out, Paris gardens "are seen as a decoration to be admired, whereas in London I feel that they are primarily a vehicle for an English love of cultivating growing things." Page's spare designs were complete in themselves and didn't allow for much random plant shopping by owners after their completion, which would be difficult for most modern gardeners to abide by.

Most gardeners today don't, however, want a disorganized jumble of random plants; we do want some sort of overall design to best display our lovely growing things. And no one enjoys feeling a sneaking suspicion that their garden is "inappropriate" for their house or its setting. Certainly some of Page's advice is universal and good for any gardener, including these points:

  1. Paths should indeed always lead somewhere
  2. Gardens should mainly be approached through, and seen best from, the house
  3. Massing and repetition of plants does give a striking effect

But I'm not certain that Page's strongly held and somewhat snobbish opinions regarding what was artistically appropriate and what was in bad taste from 1930 to 1960 in wealthy people's formal Continental gardens necessarily apply to the modern concept of gardens made by small-scale owner-gardeners. Reading the book may stoke anxieties among ordinary gardeners about the appropriateness or "tastefulness" of their gardens (not a bad thing, some might say with curled lip, but I don't agree that inhibiting people from enjoying their gardens is beneficial, except perhaps to landscape designers selling their own tasteful skills).

A small garden in Paris with simple lines.

Concerning flowers, for all his deprecation of them in general and disdain for flimsy, briefly flowering, high-maintenance herbacious borders in particular, he does admit that he must "temper (my) strictures against certain annuals for which I find no use, when I see a Devonshire cottage garden where fushias, hydrangeas and roses grow companionably out of a polychrome carpet of mixed annuals - nigellas, nemesias, nemophilias, Shirley poppies, with ferns, houseleeks and all sorts of chance seedlings flourishing in every joint of the old stone walls and steps and flagged paths."

By this, he does seem to admit that his style of gardens was not for everyone, and that even if such examples of haphazardly free-flowering plots were not what he considered to be gardens as Works of Art, they do have a certain appealing, simple, unpretentious charm (much like the simple folk who made them, he no doubt thought). Well, count me in as an adherent of simple, free-flowering, non-Work-of-Art gardens.

The garden Page designed for Edith Wharton at Pavillon Colombe near Paris. Nothing but pinks (dianthus) bordered with santolina and accented by yews. Finally, some flowers, even if strictly limited to one kind.

"The Education of a Gardener" by Russell Page will obviously be most useful for landscape designers and probably should be required reading for those in training to be such. It is an important primary document for those interested in garden history, and would also be of interest to students of 20th-century British and European architectural history.

Despite my reservations about the book based upon both its shortcomings and my different taste in garden styles, I'm glad that I did read it, because I feel that I learn something from reading any autobiography enumerating what a person has learned over their lifetime. But I don't think that it will change how I garden or how I look at gardens, as this classic garden book seems to have done for many readers before me.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Review: "Inside Out: Relating Garden to House" by Page Dickey

"Inside Out: Relating Garden to House" by Page Dickey was published in 2000, but even though I try to write reviews of newer garden books because those are most helpful to purchasers (I post a shorter version of my reviews on Amazon), I still like to review older garden books that I have learned something from or enjoyed reading.

"Inside Out"  is a garden book of two types: First, the book begins with a short Introduction in which the author relates how her mostly formal gardens are laid out in relation to her small farm house, and provides brief advice about how to achieve this in your own gardens. In addition to half a dozen photos of her lovely house and gardens, she also includes a small map of the layout of her property and its gardens, something that is one of the most helpful aids in describing a garden (but is unfortunately not provided in most garden books). The map shows how her garden areas line up with the sides of her house and the main entrances and windows, which is the major point she is trying to make.

The view from the author's porch.
What lovely crabapple trees!
The author's herb garden lines up
perfectly with her kitchen door.

The garden map of the author's garden, showing how the axes of her garden areas intersect with the doors of her house. And a beautifully drawn map too.
In the Introduction, she offers the most important piece of advice about how to start when designing a garden: look carefully at both your house and its surroundings. These are the main points that I gleaned from her Introduction (in my own words and with my own observations added):

1. Stand at your windows and think about what you see from them and what you might rather see from them.
2. Stand in your doorways and think about the paths leading to your house and away from it (or plan them logically if they don't exist already).
3. The outlines of garden beds should bear some relation to the footprint of your house.
4. Consider the setting of your house: a house in the country needs a different sort of garden than a house in a small town, a suburban house or a house in a big city.
5. The architectural style of your house (which sometimes is determined by your region, but not always) should play some role determining the style of gardens that are appropriate for your property. A formal, symmetrical house probably needs equally formal gardens (although there is always leeway for romantic plantings within formal beds); a small cottage needs a garden appropriate to that style of house; a modernistic house needs a different garden layout than either of the other two.
6. There are important regional differences in both the styles of gardens and in the types of plants used in each region. Look at which plants are commonly grown in other gardens in your area; these are usually popular because they grow well in your area, and they might also have a traditional historical significance to a region as well. Rather than fighting what is common and trying to be "original" in your plant choices, start with what grows well and looks right in your region, and then experiment with new plants after that.
7. But personal tastes are very important too: grow the kinds of plants you like in the arrangements you like. Some people love cool, green foliage and simple mossy areas; other of us love bright, sunny flowers in abundant cottage gardens; yet others live for the fragrance of plants, or prefer only productive fruits and vegetables for their kitchen. Having an "appropriate" garden is good, but it should also delight you, especially if you plan to live in your house for the long term.

After the author's Introduction, however, the book changes into the second kind of garden book: portraits of 13 very different gardens around the United States in various regional styles. Included are gardens in:
  • Connecticut (a weathered New England A-frame house with added screened-in porch and conservatory, surrounded by paved areas and a handsome pergola) 
  • Arizona (a southwest desert style garden around a modern stucco house), 
  • two in Illinois (both a formal, old-money garden laid out in the 1920s and a prairie-surrounded house)
    The old-money Illinois house, with its 1920s garden
    layout. Note how the oval pool lines up perfectly
    with the living room window and the bedroom window
    above, affording lovely views from both.
    What could be more right than this design?
  • four in New York:
    1. an artist's billowing farm garden
    2. a fascinating green garden, clothing the walls of a two-story ruin of an old mansion
    3. a Manhattan rooftop garden where because of the drying winds, only Zone 4 plants can survive even though Manhattan is in Zone 7
    4. an architect's upstate New York farmhouse with a classical temple folly
      New York garden #2, lush growth filling the
      ruins of a long-burnt mansion.
  • two in Texas (a boldly-hued, exuberant Texas-style take on Monet's garden and a peaceful Zen retreat of raked gravel and minimalist plantings), 
  • California (a tiny but lush garden surrounding a San Francisco row house)
  • Florida (a jaw-droppingly fabulous oasis of palm trees and other tropical plants surrounding a pool and waterfalls and enveloping a house that opens almost completely to the garden by sliding glass doors on all sides)
  • Maine (a perfectly normal white clapboard house appended by a minimally heated greenhouse built of salvaged windows to enclose a mimosa tree with breathtakingly beautiful yellow blooms, an orange tree and other tender plants growing directly in the ground in this Zone 5 location)
The Florida paradise, as seen from the open walls of the
house. This is as fitting to the site as the oval pool
is in the Illinois property.
This second part of the book is written in the style of most garden books that describe beautiful gardens and how they were made, however, the author does not specifically mention the points she made in her Introduction and how these properties illustrate them (and garden maps were provided only for 5 of the properties).

The properties themselves do illustrate quite well how the gardeners have worked with the sites and regional growing conditions to design gardens that are appropriate for each location, but it's not always obvious what lessons the reader -- especially a beginning gardener reader -- can take away about planning gardens in relation to their own houses.

This was an enjoyable book filled with beautiful garden photos of memorable gardens, but I wish there had been more of the first kind of writing, specific advice about garden design, and less of the second, main, part of the book simply describing gardens. For experienced gardeners, the descriptions will contain lessons about designing gardens, but others may want more explicit advice followed by specific examples.

Book Review: "Slow Flowers" by Debra Prinzing

Filled with ideas for growing and arranging
flowers in the home.
"Slow Flowers" was published in early 2013 and has an interesting premise for a book: The author, a west coast garden design expert whose writing I was familiar with from one of my favorite magazines, Country Gardens, decided to see if she could make a bouquet from locally-grown flowers every week of the year.

She didn't grow all of the flowers and other materials such as branches and leaves herself, although quite a few did come from her own garden or those of friends. She avoided blooms imported from other countries, although she did buy them from local professional growers, some of whom used greenhouses to continue growing during the winter months.

Obviously, since she lives in the Seattle area, she was able to "arrange locally" more easily than many of us who live in the midwest or the northeast, where we would be pretty hard-pressed to get many blooms during late fall, winter and early spring without spending a fortune on heated greenhouse flowers.

But even though she is from a warmer climate, her book is still useful to the rest of us. In the back of the book, she included a very helpful list of all the plants included in her bouquets, and I noted that the majority of them would grow here in the midwest, either as perennials or as common summer annuals.

And many of the bouquets included branches with leaves and berries in the fall, forced bulbs (spring bulbs planted in pots in the fall and brought inside to warm up and bloom before they would outside) and flowering branches cut in bud and also brought inside to bloom early. These are all materials that are available to colder-climate gardeners, if not during all 52 weeks of the year.
These kerria japonica and flowering quince branches
are naturally beautiful to behold in their simplicity.

Since I started my own cutting garden last year, I have been interested in suggestions for different kinds of flowers to grow than the commonly grown ones, and this book did provide me with ideas that I can use to have more blooms, especially early in spring. I plan to plant a number of early-flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs this year and this book made it clear how beautiful these can be inside the house. And I will also try to plant some shrubs with good berry colors for fall.

The book also has a number of sidebars containing practical information for cut flower bouquets: for example, how to make hellebore flowers last inside (wait until they start to develop the seed pods before cutting them), how to use flower frogs (cages that fit in the bottom of the vase) to help flowers stay upright without the use of that bacteria-laden green foam, and numerous other practical and aesthetic flower-arranging tips.

"Slow Flowers" is altogether a useful and idea-filled book, and one well-worth reading several times over for maximum understanding.

But I do have to say, that even though her autumn and winter arrangements were attractive (especially the ones that relied on greenhouse-grown flowers), nothing can compare to the breathtaking freshness of daffodils and tulips in spring, a bowl of just-cut peonies in May, full-blown roses in June and great big dahlias in July. These flowers signify the fleeting nature of youth, the fragility of all life, and their beauty fills the human soul with awe for the transience of all things.
Peonies and alliums, with lady's mantle foliage.
Late spring at its most magnificent.

Does bringing in fading leaves and denuded branches -- signs of senescence, withering, death -- really delight the soul in the same way? Does it make us happy to plunk anything in a vase simply to have an arrangement? Or should we not even try to match the joy of spring and summer and simply look forward to the first blooms of spring (perhaps accelerating them with some early forced bulbs or branches) and perhaps buy a couple of supermarket bouquets to tide us over until then?
Can anything beat poppies in their happy

Is it really so terrible to support local growers in season and support growers in developing countries during winter, or worse for the environment to transport flowers than to heat a greenhouse in the north? None of these questions have easy answers, but I do feel richer for having read "Slow Flowers," which has increased my options for both the abundant seasons and the slower months.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions for My Gardens in 2014

Happy New Year! This is the time for New Year's Resolutions, and although I've already made a big promise to myself in terms of losing a few pounds and getting in shape (which can only help in making gardening physically easier, of course), there are also many areas of my gardens that I need to improve next year, and perhaps writing about them will make me focus on what needs to be done and motivate me to do it, come Spring.

Some general goals:

1. I would like more early flowers: bulbs, earliest perennials, flowering shrubs and small flowering trees. By March, I'm desperate to spend time outside and see any signs of life that I can, and I've decided that these early flowers give me more joy than the very last ones in October and November do. I'd like to include some early cutting flowers among these: bulbs and branches mostly.
Boy, it makes me happy to see this after a long winter!
2. No more new garden areas this year -- only work to improve the ones I already have.

3. I need to develop a higher standard of maintenance, weeding more regularly, perhaps edging beds? I'd like a neater look in the garden.

4. I'd like to take better garden photos -- better in quality and more often. My father very kindly gave me a nice camera for Christmas, and I resolve to spend January learning how to use it.

Goals for specific areas of my garden:

These will be of more interest to me than perhaps to anyone who might read this, but I will set them down here anyway, in the interest of making a public declaration of what I'd like to accomplish this year. I'll go through the list of my garden areas from my garden map:

1. House
     I really should repaint our white picket fence, and I'd like to have some new, pretty cushions for our porch furniture.
2. East Patio and Gardens
     The east bed of the east patio areas is overrun with grass and creeping charlie, and I should remove at least the smaller perennials and maybe even the rose bushes, spray at least twice over a week with round up to kill grass and pernnial weeds, put a brick border along the back to kepp grass out, and replant. We'll see what gets done this spring....
3. Front Border
    These borders will fill out more, as I completely re-did them in Fall 2012. I'll replace any perennials that didn't make it through the winter, and try to plant or seed annuals by mid-May.
4. Mint Circle
    I'm eagerly waiting to see what the crocus and tulips I planted this fall will come to, and will plant annuals from seed in May.
5. Addition Borders
    I'd like to plant marigold plants and some seeded annuals in orange and purple colors in the front border, improve the blue beds on the west side, and especially find some attractive shade plants for the north side this year. This will require some research, as I know very little about good shade plants. Perhaps some ferns would look lush.
6. White Beds and Pergola
    I'll probably have to replace the non-hardy double white anemone "White Everest" that were sold as hardy (but only to Zone 7!). More annuals. I need to find some way to allow the white clematis to attach itself to the smooth posts  on the back on the pergola. perhaps some chicken wire wrapped around the posts and spraypainted white to match the pergola post?
7. Kwanzan Cherry Tree Grove
    Fertilize? Trim off sucker growth.
8. North Windbreak with tunnel to Celtic Cross Statue
    I'm getting tired making this list already, so I'll plan on leaving this area alone this year...
9. North Border
    a) See how first year's planting fills in and what survives the winter
    b) add more perennials -- I will think about what else might look nice there
    c) plant annuals earlier this year, by May 15.
10. Peony Border
    This is one of the areas that needs careful consideration and much work. I need to remove the nursery bed plants from the north end and replace them with something, perhaps starting a collection of iris. Some more bulbs planted in fall, perhaps. I will think about this some more in the coming winter months -- as this bed in in line with scenic views of fields, perhaps it would be best not to have showy flower displays, at least after spring?
11. Herb Garden
    Plant basil from seed this year as it was unsuccessful from starts the past two years due to drought. Seed by mid-May.
12. East Windbreak with secret tunnel
    Again, nothing here.
13. Rainbow Border
    More annuals, planted and seeded earlier. Assess performance of perennials. Need more blooming in June, and this will require some more thought and research. See how the tulips are holding up.
14. Windmill
    The bed under the windmill has been a disaster, because the trumpet vine planted by our predecessors has been impossible to kill. This year, after the daffodils have bloomed, I will mow them off and mulch heavily with compost. Then I will carefully spray anything that comes up, trying to avoid the two climbing roses (perhaps pruning them back on the edges to make their footprint smaller). I will need to get some kind of deadly biocide tree killer, I think, as Roundup has been unequal to the task. I must get this under control this year.
15. Pond and Four L-Shaped Garden beds
    Use algae control more regularly in spring. See if water lilies survive winter (I left them in the pond this year, as they did not flower last year, unlike their first year.) If they don't come up, I will replace them with new plants. In the beds, plant pink petunias this year (vinca was less than impressive last year).
16. Orchard
    Plant replacement apple and pear trees for the missing ones. See if more daffodils came up this year and take photos. I planted 500 in fall 2012, but they didn't all come up for some reason, and I bought them from a reputable bulb company.
17. Flowering Tree Grove
    Buy two more flowering trees for spots we didn't fill last year, replace any trees lost over the winter. Also, I would like to plant some early-flowering shrubs that I can cut for forcing inside, so I will have more flowers for indoor arrangements.
18. Gazebo
    Plant border around gazebo with easy, drought-resistant, deer-resistant shrubs, perennials and annuals.
19. Garden Shed and Surrounding Borders
    Move hostas from Peony Bed to west side under tree, also buy 'Sum and Substance' large hosta. Transplant ferns next to shed on west and south sides. Other partial sun perennials, annuals?
20. Tractor Shed Pavement and Mock Orange Hedge
    Clear off debris and junk from pavement.
21. East Tractor Shed Border and Fern Border
   I need to find a way to attach the yellow climbing rose to the side of the shed. Whether I should make a large lattice or simply tie the rose to staples is a question.
22. Garage Borders (North, West and South)
    All three of these borders need a lot of work and more plants. The south is blazingly sunny, the west is mostly shaded, and the north is in full shade. I will think about this over the winter....
23. Forsythia Bed
    I'd like to plant some more perennials and perhaps a few annuals here, but I should plant early, since it's difficult to run a garden hose to this bed to water. I'll have to decide what might look good here with the forsythia, the two large peony bushes, the white rose and the mums I planted here in fall. Maybe some nice June-blooming perennials, so garden visitors have something to look at when arriving.
24. Kitchen Garden and Chicken Compound
    I need to put more compost in the beds, and perhaps some garden soil in beds I will seed for cutting flowers, since seeds don't start well in pure compost. We also need more mulch in the paths. both of these could probably wait another year, though, if I can't them done. I want to plant more flowers for cutting, ones that I love to cut but that will be not too much work. I will look into more bulbd to plant this fall, so i will have more early cut flowers in spring.
25. Upper Pasture
    I made a mown grass maze for my children here last summer, but perhaps something different would be in order for this year? Hmm....
26. Fenced Pasture
    I hope our young weeping willow trees survive the winter and last summer's drought. I'd like to see them grow larger in 2014.
27. Lower Pasture and Wildflower Strip
    This year, I will select a wildflower mix that includes some larger-flowered annuals that can be seen better from the road, such as medium-size sunflowers (tall ones might blow over if it's windy).

I have lots of things to think about, research and decide upon over the winter. Here's to a productive 2014!