The tin maple leaves hung in November 2016 are now coated with snow, making the scene even more evocative.

Garden Goals for 2017

Setting annual goals for the garden keeps me on track and helps me avoid jumping from one thing to another, something I’m all too prone to do. Last year I set 10 goals for myself and discovered, looking back in last week’s post, that ten was too many.

So in 2017 I’m cutting my ambitions in half and setting five goals for the year ahead.

1. Finish The Upper Room
The bare bones of The Upper Room, the new area in the garden that honours my mother and her beliefs, have been in place for several months. The plantings are yet to come. I know I will use boxwood to edge the brickwork since I have about a dozen plants left over from this area’s previous incarnation as The Egg, and the combination of brick and boxwood is typical of traditional Virginia gardens. I won’t use many other plants — The Upper Room is in the midst of a forest that provides its own beauty — but I do want to use columnar trees that will rise like pillars from the corners of the symmetrical space. I need to choose trees that will thrive in the woodland conditions, that the deer won’t destroy. Since the deer now seem to enjoy everything they can lay their teeth on, I may need to fence them, either temporarily or permanently. I’m considering using Skyrocket junipers but they prefer sunnier locations. Suggestions are most welcome.

The most important addition to The Upper Room, though, is the artwork. Five sandblasted glass panels will stand at the uppermost section of the area, serving as a backdrop to set the area off from the surrounding woods. The drawing for the panels was made by my friend Mary Martha Guy; it shows the beautifully bare outline of a dogwood tree (Cornus florida), with five over-sized flowers positioned in a gentle curve. Choosing a dogwood for the design was obvious — it is the Virginia state flower and since that state was a huge part of what my mother valued, I felt it was an essential element in the overall concept.



Mary Martha Guy's preliminary sketch for the glass panels at The Upper Room show the stark outline of a Cornus florida.
Mary Martha Guy’s preliminary sketch for the glass panels at The Upper Room shows the stark outline of a Cornus florida, the type of dogwood that blooms in climates warmer than mine. The branches in the drawing don’t line up in some places but that’s done deliberately to allow for the spacing between panels.


2. Finish Orin’s Sugarcamp
This project is so close to finished that it almost feels like cheating to include it. The final touches — and there are only a few — can’t happen until the snow melts. But who know what the winter will bring? Dreaming by the fire I may decide that something more needs to be done.


The tin maple leaves hung in November 2016 are now coated with snow, making the scene even more evocative.
The tin maple leaves hung in November 2016 are now coated with snow, making the scene even more evocative than it was. The pale circles on the tree trunk mark where we removed dead branches. The colour will change and the circles disappear within a year or two.


3. Improve the plantings at The Skating Pond
I’ve been working on this project for the last few years and hope that this summer the plantings will be completed to my satisfaction. Near the end of the summer last year we uncovered more of the rock that lies just under the surface. This section, near the end of the boardwalk, remains damp throughout the summer, too wet for the Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ that was there. We moved the ornamental grasses out and moved some damp-loving plants in. We also scattered seeds of wildflowers that like the conditions.

The best things that have happened at The Skating Pond, though, are those that occurred naturally. I’m hoping the site itself will choose what grows. (see goal 5, below)


This photo from early October shows the newly exposed rock.
This photo from early October shows the newly exposed rock before it was washed clean and before any plants were added.


4. Hold another Open Garden Day
The first Open Garden Day last summer was a tremendous amount of work but a repeat performance should be much easier. Since this is a fund-raiser for our local land conservation trust, I’m hoping the number of attendees will increase, from about 325 to 500 or 600. This may be overly ambitious. Certainly it means getting the news out earlier, to more sources.


This photo was taken before the slate edging was installed. But I chose it because I like the yucca. My father called these flowers rock lilies. They bloomed at my grandparents' farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
With luck, the yucca in the Gravel Garden will be blooming on the Open Garden Day in 2017.


5. Let the garden express itself.
How often do I simply enjoy my surroundings, leaving well enough alone? By doing less to shape and control the landscape, I plan to give it time to find its own rhythms. The more I avoid interfering, the more it will express itself. This will be particularly important as The Big Lawn transitions into The Big Meadow. I know I’ll be tempted to fiddle. Setting this goal may help me resist.


This combination in the Upper Field is entirely natural. While I might want to add another colour to the mix, I promise myself to leave it alone.
This combination in the Upper Field is entirely natural and quietly appealing. While I might want to add another colour to the mix — more clover perhaps? — I promise myself to leave it alone.


Five goals: not unrealistic. Perhaps even achievable.

What goals have you set for your garden in 2017?







  • guest

    In my shaded woodland garden, De Groot Arborvitae pillars have done well, while Junipers became very sparse, obviously did not like the shade, and eventually had to be removed. As far as I know, De Groot is hardy where you are though they may not be as full as in sun. Have you considered pillar shaped Taxus? They are slow to get going but then take off after 5 years. Love all your posts! Thank you!

  • siteandinsight

    I appreciate the suggestions, guest. De Grott Arborvitae would be terrific, as would some of the yews… except for the deer. I know they love taxus and the advice about arborvitae varies from one site to another. If I used either I’d definitely cage them in, at least initially. Ideally, I’d like to avoid doing that but it may be necessary.

  • Love your art projects, Pat. A little fiddling in a meadow is always necessary – at least in our neck of the woods, where the bad guys (like dog-strangling vine) are only too ready to take root. Good luck with all your 2017 plans!

    • siteandinsight

      Thanks, Helen. A little fiddling is ok, big fiddling is verboten!

  • My Goals are simple! I do five and I think about five. However, I see 9 and 10 in the temperature next week here in Victoria.

    • siteandinsight

      9 and 10 — not fair! Although I hear we will be at -6 soon.

  • Michael Gordon

    My main goal for the garden in 2017 is to use evergreens to enclose the garden better from my neighbors and unsightly views. I have been spending time this winter plotting out what I which views will try to hide and deciding on which plant will do the job most effectively. I also want to edit/develop each garden room to have the intended feeling I want it to have.

    • siteandinsight

      Editing is a hard job to do. I noticed on your website that you want to plant evergreens — I think they will add a lot by subtracting unsightly views.

      • Michael Gordon

        I’ll keep you “posted”. I am excited to better enclose the garden.

        • siteandinsight

          Thanks, Michael. I look forward to reading about it — or even better, to seeing it.