Garden Notes: Wishes and resolutions

What to try in 2019.

Enchanted copper forest, beeches in winter. —Susan Safford

The end of 2018 and the start of 2019 have been filled with interesting events and quite a lot of news, mostly about topics far outside the garden. As columnists, I believe we are permitted a small essay at this solemn time of year. I write my opinions and cast a dream-net of ideas and hopes for us, in deference to the unknown year ahead.

The darkness of Winter Solstice has provoked introspection among northern peoples since time immemorial. The metaphor of the dying Winter King and Infant Sun King/New Year represent the leaving of the familiar past to face the uncertainties of winter and the unknown. A fairytale enchanted wood where dangers may lie.

The gifts of Epiphany (Jan. 6) may be extrapolated to mean, in the wider sense, that what we have here on earth is something precious: that we have God-given precious gifts, not to be taken for granted or disregarded.

For our Island community, and myself, may 2019 bring more good news than bad. I wish a little less “interesting” and fearfulness, and a lot more education, music, love, and happiness. I wish for blessings of healthy lives for those struggling to find them. I wish for tolerance, more face-to-face and person-to-person and less social media, commenting, and backbiting.

I wish for all of us to have everything we need and — maybe — just a tiny bit more. I wish for more turning to the light; for the benevolent things we nurture and plant to grow and prosper; and especially for the craven and grasping to transform to nobler outlooks. I wish for wiser and cleverer solutions to complex problems we face.

I wish for clean air, waters to drink, and oceans to fish in. I wish for more planting of street and shade trees to mitigate the heat of summers to come. I wish for an Island ever more closely resembling the ideal community it is often claimed to be.

Over the years I have revisited these resolutions to remind myself to stick to them, and hope others find them useful as well:

No one will ever get out of this world alive. Resolve therefore to maintain a reasonable set of values.

Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone’s major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is almost impossible.

Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay you in kind.

Avoid angry, abrasive persons. They are generally vengeful.

Avoid zealots. They are generally humorless.

Resolve to listen more and talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking.

Be chary of giving advice. (Wise people don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.)

Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.

Do not equate money with success. (There are many successful money-makers who are miserable failures as human beings. What counts most about success is how a person achieves it.)

LOL to garden columnist.


Enjoy ‘The Rock’


Not so many shopping opportunities, true, and for big-league sporting events you might have to substitute some cold weather play to indulge in. For example — please, weather gods! — pond skating! If you consider the Island “the Rock,” as in Alcatraz, I urge you to get outside and explore it. There is a lot here. That quasi-ironic quip may reveal a lack of appreciation for where you actually live.

Now is when some gorgeous winter days turn up unexpectedly. Get some fresh air and bundle up and explore the Vineyard with or without kids. Have you taken a ride up-Island to view the revamped parking and beach at Squibnocket you read so much about? You could watch the full moon rise and eclipse from Menemsha Hills or State Beach on Jan. 21.

What plan are they discussing for Vineyard Haven’s Beach Road? Do you know? Get out and walk it on a bright January day. Traipse over to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum from downtown Vineyard Haven, as tourists would, and survey the inside displays and outer harbor from its heights.

Check out the latest edition of Will Flender’s “Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard,” to discover access to parts of the Vineyard you might not know, or have never visited.

Take some time to observe and evaluate plantings in your daily rounds. What is that plant that looks good and impresses you? Do you have enough evergreens to create sheltered surroundings? Do you know the best sunny outside sitting place (Old-time advice: notice where the dog and the cat lie outdoors to sun themselves.)




Hippeastrum, or “amaryllis” as they are commonly called, may be kept from year to year, although many are tossed after initial flowering is past. This is a shame, as these holiday plants can be enjoyed for many years with proper care. They are prepared to bloom at the holidays the first year after purchase, but then revert to their normal rhythm, blooming in late winter or early spring.

After flowering, cut off the flower stalks and grow as a green houseplant. The foliage is fueling the formation of the next year’s flower buds. Water and fertilize regularly, being careful not to water into the top of the bulb. Grow inside, or in a partly shaded area outside once warm weather arrives.

End of summer, withhold water to force the bulb to go dormant. Remove dried foliage and store bulb in a cool location for four to six weeks. After the resting period, repot the bulb with one third of its top exposed, and resume watering sparingly until green growth is visible.

Happy New Year!