Karen Atkins is the owner of Proper Gardens (propergardens.com). She designed the Victorian gardens for the Merrick Art Gallery and the Pioneer Entrance Garden for Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. She writes for Historic Gardens Review and Pennsylvania Gardener magazine.

This article applies to:



2013 New Year’s Resolutions for Gardeners
by Karen Atkins    

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology from the University of Scranton, 45 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions. Here is a ranking of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2012:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less, save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit and healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with friends and family

Don’t let it escape you that taking up gardening could help people make significant strides in all of them! But for those of us who are already hopeless gardening junkies, I made a new list with 10 of my own for 2013:

When we are starved for flowers in the spring, pansies are a splurge we deserve.

This vignette is neither planned nor charming. Finishing what I start will prevent sights like these from bringing me down.

One of life’s affordable luxuries is a fragrant centerpiece. If you are really decadent, choose varieties to go with your wallpapers and fabrics.

1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle:
While I maintain the Holy Grail of recycling — a compost pile fed by my horses, chickens and 10 acres of leaves and grass clippings — I could do a better job in this category. I plan to start more plants from seed and divisions, create weed barriers with old newspapers, and turn my old tires into potato planters. 

2. Not Miss Another Pansy Season:
I will not be cheap with myself this year. I don’t know how many springs I have left — so I won’t live another year thinking that pansy season is too short to spend the money. I am going to fill my urns with them and fill containers of them for indoor arrangements. As the weather warms I plan to move them to cooler, shadier areas of the garden to make the most of them. I will throw Johnny jump up (Viola tricolor) seeds in cracks in my walkways so that my daughter can once again use them to crown the tops of frosted cupcakes.  

3. Not Miss Another Dahlia Season:
Last year, I made the unforgivable mistake of thinking I didn’t really need to plant dahlias. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was bereft in July, August and September. Next year I am going to plant more than I ever had. I am thinking of a dinner plate burgundy dahlias paired with smaller orange ones. Yum. 

4. Grow More of My Own Food:
This is simple, really. I am not the worst vegetable gardener, but I could enjoy it more and earlier if I started cold-season crops from seed in early spring. Instead of being content with just cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuces, I want to learn to grow root vegetables this year. 

5. Finish What I Start:
So many of my guests seem to think it is charming how many balls I can have in the air. I always assure them it isn’t charming to me. It robs me of my peace, and I am going to change my behavior this year. I am not going to get out anything that I can’t put away again in an hour.

6. Rip out Anything that Disappoints:
People wince when I tell them that I touch a match to my tulips every single year. But they get spindly and weaker every year after the first. The way that I look at it, I deserve sturdy, fat tulips at all times. I will keep doing it, and I will tear out any stubborn shrub or perennial that persistently refuses to thrive where I put it. For those of you that take issue with that, I’ll tell you what I tell my clients: Plants are not sentient. 

7. Plant Flowers Just for Cutting:
I hate weakening my display by snipping from my gardens, so I have designated an area just for cutting. Last year, I decided that it wasn’t big enough. I will construct even more beds this year just for flowers that I can bring in. I channel Oscar Wilde with my mantra — “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

 8. Visit Other Gardens:
Last year, I visited Longwood Gardens and the Philadelphia Flower Show. It wasn’t enough! I want to visit more public gardens, but also find a way to see more private gardens. Since each is an extension of the gardener, every one of them can humble, encourage and inspire. 

9. Sit Down in My Garden:
I gave a talk to a garden club the other day, and all of us said we couldn’t do this. We all agreed it was a lovely idea, but that we doubted it was possible. While we gardeners owe our fitness to the impulse to keep going when we’re out there, I am going to schedule time to sit in my garden every Sunday this year.

Get a charge, and lots of ideas, by visiting other gardens. Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pa., is really inspiring.

Permit yourself to sit down in your own garden.


The Scranton University found that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t make resolutions. I think if I go to the extra step of printing these off and hanging them up, I have an even better shot.

Photos courtesy of Karen Atkins


Posted: 12/17/12   RSS | Print


Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter            

Other People Are Reading