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I'll turn over a new leaf; Gardening.

A new year, a new set of resolutions. And this year, I'm determined to keep them.

The trouble with good intentions, though, is that they seem entirely achievable in January.

But, come frantic May and hectic June, it's all too easy to let things slip.

Not this year, though. This year's different.

And to ensure that I do stick to my guns, I'm going to spill the beans in this column.

Firstly, tools. When winter comes and the border plants die back, the garden here produces an entirely new crop.

Hand tools which have gone missing throughout the summer suddenly re- appear as the foliage dies away. This year's bumper harvest consisted of three weeding forks, two trowels, a hand cultivator and a pair of secateurs.

This is what happens. I'm happily working away, and the phone rings. I leave my tools where I'm working, which is fine.

But my problem is that I'm just too easily side- tracked. Instead of coming back, I notice some seed ready for harvest, or a climber that needs tying, and I'm off on another track.

It only takes a couple of days in summer for the plants to grow up and small tools disappear for the rest of the season. So more discipline about putting tools away this year and, above all, more discipline about organising my time.

This is the year when I'm going to be more of a bee and less of a butterfly.

And while I'm at it, I'd love to know what happens to string in my garden. I keep buying rolls of that lovely tarred twine which looks so right in the garden, but when I come to tie plants in, all I can find is orange nylon string. So I do a temporary job, meaning to replace it.

But there are temporary plant ties here which are at least two years old. They look hideous and out of place.

From now on, I need to keep my string to hand so I always have the right material for the job. Maybe a pinny with a pocket is the answer.

I've decided to start 1998 with a couple of confessions about my shortcomings as a gardener - I'm useless at cutting hedges and, even worse, I always leave staking the borders until rain flattens the plants.

I've become an expert at damage limitation, but the borders would look much better if they had the expert underpinning which old-fashioned gardeners seem so good at.

I have to admit both these faults come from the same character defect - an impatience with the boring jobs.

I forget about them, hoping they'll somehow do themselves, or I rush at them like a bull in a china shop and make a mess.

One year I tackled the hedges with a petrol-driven cutter. It didn't feel heavy at first, but after a couple of hours it had turned to lead.

Of course, I dropped it and took a deep and embarrassing gouge out of a Victorian box hedge.

Panic! I tried to level it up and ended with something that looked like Aintree the day after the Grand National.

This year, I'm going to start these dull jobs in plenty of time and be steady and methodical.

My hedges are going to be smooth, green walls and my borders immaculately staked. I'm going to take a pride in the routine business of garden management. Well, that's my story anyway.

On a positive note, I'm resolved to explore a new plant family in depth, and grow it as well as I can.

Last year, we collected as many Oriental poppies as we could and previous years saw collections of salvias, penstemons, hellebores and primula.

This year, I'll make a special sunny border for bearded iris. It'll need liming and extra drainage, but it'll bring a new speciality into the garden and a new challenge.

Finally, I'd love to make 1998 the year when I eradicate creeping buttercup, but I know when I'm beaten.

Gardening is all about enjoyment so, above all, make a resolution to get as much joy as possible from your garden.

That should be a New Year resolution that's easy to keep.

Plant of the week : Trillium Sessile

The lovely trilliums carpet the forests of North America and Canada much as bluebells do here.

They love cool air and damp, peaty soil, so succeed very well in Scotland. Also called the Trinity Flower as their leaves and petal are carried in threes.

This one has mottled foliage and dark red flowers. Others to look out for are Trillium Erectum, also with dark red flowers, and Trillium Grandiflorum with elegant white flowers, always so good in a shady place.

Available from Jack Drake, Inshriach Nursery, Aviemore, Inverness-shire PH22 1QS.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Chudziak, Bill
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 3, 1998
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