First things first: Emma Townshend reveals her gardening New Year's resolutions

Our gardening correspondent's opening resolution is to tidy up. After that, she can get down to her World Cup window boxes and learning how to cloud-prune...

Emma Townshend
Sunday 05 January 2014 01:00
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How about taking a course on cloud-pruning, led by world expert Jake Hobson?
How about taking a course on cloud-pruning, led by world expert Jake Hobson?

1. Tidy

I'm going to tackle the eternal problem of how to store the hosepipe so it doesn't need a military-style clean-up to use it. I have a dream that it will be possible to get it out without moving 14 large plastic toy vehicles first. I'm mainly going to tackle this by freecycling all the vehicles. Don't tell my son.

2. Muckspread

This is not so much sharing any pertinent gossip I possess in the case of Charles vs Nigella, as it is me putting down a load of manure. Although those two activities can be successfully combined, I've established, after some experiment.

3. Nourish

My neighbour Leanne says that watering is her New Year's garden resolution, and frankly I'm fully in support, especially in view of all the living things she brutally massacred this summer. Basic food and water go a long way with plants. As does sunshine.

4. Buy what you need and not just what looks nice

Surely it's not just me who wanders to the garden centre clutching a sensible list in a Sunday-morning daze, and winds up carting home a load of great big flowers. I am going to have to implement a simple rule, whether it be for flower shows, village fêtes, school summer fairs and drive-bys through tempting Devon hamlets with plant-stand honesty boxes: until I live in a vicarage with a four-acre garden to fill, I will stop buying plants on impulse.

5. Buy what looks nice

On second thoughts, I'd like to recant on the previous resolution. Occasionally it's very successful to do a Marcella Hazan and shop for plants a bit like Italian housewives working their way through the market, seeing what looks good on the day. There must be a way of amending resolution four so that it can allow the very, very occasional purchase of something gorgeous and heavily seasonal.

6. Expand on what works

There is no denying the following: I am good at growing exotic plants with big leaves. I have a much worse record on softer herbaceous planting. And window boxes. Wouldn't it be great to live in a world where we could just concentrate on using our strengths? Work to your good points, guys; it's not rocket science.

7. Window boxes

Having said that about killing the window boxes, it is a World Cup year, so I'd just be letting down the neighbourhood if I didn't plant Brazil-themed ones, surely?

8. Don't take on more than you will actually enjoy

Of course my garden would look great if I planted it with 500 tulips, but how many cold winter afternoons am I going to spend doing it? The older I get, the more I think that gardening never seems to involve nearly enough enjoying sitting down in the actual garden. Next year, more sitting, less pruning.

9. Don't let the wisteria get so big this summer

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

10. Stop being nice to that idiot who nicks my plants

I can't help it. He's 80 years old, he wanders around with carrier bags full of loads of plants picked from other people's front gardens, and I'm not even totally sure he knows he's nicking them. BUT I SAW HIM. Yet I still cheerily say hello to him. OK, maybe I will carry on saying hello. Maybe amend the resolution to say that I can still greet him, but I will certainly NOT send him a Christmas card.

11. And one more because I couldn't fit them into 10: make a Battenberg cake

My friend Katy had this as one of her traditional 4,000 New Year's resolutions sometime in the late nineties. Straightaway I fell in love with the concept. The celebrated Battenberg Cake Resolution represents something crazy, time-consuming and completely pointless you'd nonetheless still like to master. Twining willow branches into rustic seats, air-layering your magnolias, that type of thing. Or how about taking a course on cloud-pruning, led by world expert Jake Hobson on 26 April at West Dean in Sussex (westdean.org.uk)? Happy new year!

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