Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Start making garden plans for this season's plantings

I wrote this column 5 years ago. I don't know if I ever sent it in. But, it has the exact message that I wanted to convey, or I should say, that I most needed to hear, so finding it was a big moment for me.

Everything is moving very fast and I'm finding it hard to stay in the present. There are times when well-meaning, albeit wise, people say to me "Just be in the now". I pause and say "yes", while I quietly think to myself, "How in the heck am I supposed to do that when my entire life is about planning. I'm already creating ads for Mothers Day!" or, "Who wants to be in the present, it's -10 degrees, the yard is covered in frozen dog doo and I've got stuff to do!"

Thankfully, even my planning mind does calm and I do find myself able to enjoy the stillness of winter. I think the actual diagnosis for the condition that I'm suffering from is ‘cabin fever'. So, without abandoning the present, this week I'm going to allow a few hours to just think about what I hope to accomplish in the yard this year.

There is a sign in the store that says: "Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them." The Chinese proverb becomes more meaningful and relevant the more I think about it. For some, the act of gardening is based in science; for others, it's a hobby that fills a seasonal need. Still, for others, it is about design and self-expression. In any case, gardening no matter the level, is still gardening.

Plants foster an appreciation of growing, living, thriving, reproducing and dying. For me, the outdoor landscape of a home is more than improving curb appeal. Of course, I appreciate the beauty of a manicured yard and botanic perfection, but what I notice is the passion that people exude when they work on their gardens. As we plan for the spring season, it is important that we take the time to really think about what worked and what didn't in our yards. We could take that a step further and do the same for our lives, but that's a different column and writer!

Consider the following:

Did you like the color of your zonal geraniums? Did the perennial Johnson's Blue get enough light? Do you want to add a free form edge to an existing formal planter? Did you or Mother Nature do some tree trimming this winter? If so, light changes for your beds must be considered. What once thrived in a shady spot will be tortured in an area that is now going to have more sunlight.

Angie and I removed two troublesome apple trees that have had years of improper trimming. The fruit was so high, if it produced at all, that it would take a 20 ft. extension ladder to harvest them. They are now gone and over half of our yard is now in full sun, so our planting will be completely different for that area this year.

Make a plan:

Now is the time to get out the graph paper, pictures of your yard from past seasons, a current picture of the area, and clippings from gardening magazines of your dream ‘look' and start planning. When you finish that, make the most of the rest of the winter. Spring will be here soon.

Jim Gainan is president of Gainan's Flowers and Garden Center, a sixty-year-old family business located in Billings, MT. Questions or comments? Email