Before and After January

~New Year musings and rambling thoughts~ 

I've been thinking how (quite unintentionally) my January has acquired a distinctly before and after undercurrent...starting with the theme of the makeover article of my front garden in GARDEN GATE MAGAZINE this month (read about it here)...and (it being January and all)...with resolutions front and I, like many, am interested in the process of the before and after of habit change....and how habit formation improves, or worsens, our quality of life...

and the control we do and do not have over their formation, their 'stickiness', if you will, and their characteristics relative to our individual natures. Before the adoption of a habit and after its adoption.....the topic of Gretchen Rubin's new book BETTER THAN BEFORE, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (here).  But there is also the inevitable before and after of the passage of time...a process over which we may have limited control...but worth heeding and documenting and appreciating as we contemplate the future...and how we choose, within time's limitations, to shape and influence it. The good and the bad of it. What was best left behind, and what is worth revisiting. The before becomes the after; the before informs the after... and may ultimately become the after once again. Ah, the circle of life.

Shortly after completion of the two arbors framing my potager.

In January...after twenty years of maturity

The twin arbors last summer and this fall

Case in point: the arbors of my potager. The growth and beauty of age and maturity is overall a marvelous thing. How a common plant like Heavenly Bamboo nandina can transform a space is a wonder to is the softening of the edges with ivy and Carolina Jasmine and variegated euonymus. But the density of foliage and the deep-colored stain of the arbors also makes it voluptuously dark and a bit foreboding. In looking at the 'before' image, I see that I want to re-introduce some of that lightness and airiness and thus recapture some of the innocence of the space.

Judicious pruning and introducing more light and less shadow are in order. Something to contemplate over the winter. How to get something back that I've lost.

When I first took up gardening, I was, like most, seduced by lots of flowery color and the charm and grace of self-seeders like the Hesperis matronalis or Dames' Rocket (left, above), (find it at Swallowtail Garden Seeds here) and the often aggressive self-seeder,

Shirley Poppies (find seed here). Over time, I craved more structure and order. And more self-seeders can be labor intensive and demanding. Despite their beauty, I tired of the thinning and staking and replacement-after-bloom that they required. But I miss their numbers greatly, and the very few I have continued to grow over the years are not enough to sate my appetite for them.

Consequently, like before, I must find a way to grow more than a few....but in a more disciplined, less rampant manner......the after better than before.

Originally, I grew 'Peace' and 'Red Blaze' roses over the front arbor. But despite their beauty, they were thorny and too prone to disease for me. Consequently, I now grow Zepherine Drouhin (here), an uber fragrant, thorn less climber 

that merges beautifully with the Climbing Old Blush Rose (find at Antique Rose Emporium herethat cascades over the back studio. Pink ultimately trumped red, a change I will NOT reverse. 

The passage of time can be ugly as well as beautiful, of course... maturity sadly all to frequently in the garden leading to death or decline rather than vigor. 

For whatever reason (clematis are SO fickle), this beautiful Henryi Clematis (find one here) eventually just gave it up...despite much love and attention on my part. I have not been able to recreate her least any form. But taking a look at these old pictures gives me new resolve, and a renewed yearning to recapture the beauty of her white form.  Maybe in another location, in a benevolent spring and summer, starting with a very large plant, I can recreate the loveliness she had before.

January is all about possibilities, isn't it?

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