GARDEN TIPS FOR DECEMBER

Only a few weeks left until Christmas and the festivities begin.  Just when visitors are likely to see your garden it will be at it most dull and uninteresting.  There are a number of ways to improve the view of your winter garden.  Trees and shrubs can be planted when the ground is not frozen.  Many trees come with interesting bark and will add height and drama to your garden.  Try Betula ut jaquemontii with its crisp white bark and Acer griseum with its peeling  bronze bark.

There are shrubs with brightly coloured berries throughout the winter such as Pyracantha and  Cotoneaster  with the added benefit of providing some much needed food for birds.  Evergreen shrubs come in many forms to give further colour and interest, the large dark green leaves of the Fatzia japonica or the Choisya sundance with its yellow tones are a welcome addition.  Phormiums can be very useful for colour in the winter months with a huge variety of leaf  colours from yellow and green to reddish bronzes  and along with colourful evergreen grasses they can add to the texture in your garden borders.

If you would like the added benefit of some winter scent try the evergreen Sarcococca confusa or Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata.   Trees and shrubs planted in the winter can lift in windy of frosty weather so check any new plantings regularly firming back in if required.  For some additional interest plant up some containers near the house with winter bedding mixed with some evergreens.

Finish cutting back perennials that have died back and mulch borders with organic matter will help improve the gardens appearance.  During fine weather perennials can be dug up, split and replanted to increase stocks.   Clear away any fallen leaves from gutters, drains, paths, patios, lawns and ponds and add to your compost heap.  Keep lawns looking tidy and crisp through the winter by redefining the edges using a lawn edger.  Lawns can still be mown if the weather is mild but keep blades set high.

Check winter protection is in place for any plants that are tender, either move them under cover or wrap in horticultural fleece if temperatures fall significantly.  Pots can be moved nearer the house in groups to help offer protection.  Water any plants in your greenhouse sparingly over winter and regularly remove any faded leaves or flowers to prevent the spread of disease.

In the vegetable garden stake tall brussel sprouts plants and lift parsnips as you need them.  Continue to dig over vacant areas adding well rotted manure ready for the new growing season. Start to think about which vegetables you want to grow next year and plan ahead by ordering seeds. Fruit trees and bushes can be ordered and planted over the winter when the weather allows and existing fruit trees and bushes should be pruned.

Attracting wildlife can be a great way of adding some interest to the winter garden.  Ponds and bird baths are a vital source of drinking water for birds and other wildlife, in cold weather it is vital to ensure they don’t freeze over completely.  Placing a small ball on the surface of the water  will help ensure access to water and if you do notice water is completely frozen gently melt a hole in the ice.   Keep bird feeders topped up and provide some shelter for wildlife in a quiet corner of your garden with a pile of logs covered in fallen leaves.

By Jill Blackwood