What is there to do in the Garden in December and January?
The bargain hunters amongst you can check out the Garden centres, DIY shops and other shops for the last of the Bulbs, you can pick them up now very cheaply and if you get them planted they will still flower for you, maybe a few weeks later than they would have normally, but Daffodils, in particular, will then flower year after year at the normal time. Tulips can be more difficult, especially on Acid soil. They often gradually reduce over the years – many gardeners treat them as annuals and start again every year.
Don’t forget indoor bulbs too, the supermarkets and Garden centres are now selling pots of ready planted Hyacinths in bud, to flower in our homes. These are inexpensive and bring a lot of joy with them, they make a fabulous thoughtful gift. Once they have finished flowering inside pop them out into the garden, don’t cut the leaves back just plant as they are, burying the bulb at least twice it’s depth in the soil (they will have been planted right at the top of a pot or basket, but you must put them deeply in the garden) – they will flower outside for you in 2021 and for years to come, excellent value for money.
If you have pots outside at this time of year it is a good idea to raise them up on ‘pot feet’. This prevents them sitting in wet puddly ground and helps drainage, which is particularly important for bulbs – but no plants like to sit in wet cold compost all winter. It really helps keep the compost sweet and the plants healthy if they can drain properly. Putting them right close up, in the shelter of your house wall can also reduce the amount of rain water which goes into them.
It is tempting, especially if you are a naturally tidy person, to go out into the garden and cut back all the sad and dying stems of perennials and shrubs which have largely gone over now. But, we would urge you to leave them, if you can stand it – for several reasons. Firstly, the hollow old stems are ideal for solitary bees and other beneficial insects to overwinter and the seed heads will feed hungry birds this winter. Secondly, the old stems will protect the crown of the plant if we have a very cold frozen spell. And finally, the stems and old flowerheads can look very good, especially if they are covered with cobwebs and glistening with frost. If you can face leaving it all until March when the plants start to wake up so much the better. Having said that, it is very windy at times in our area, so it is a good idea to give any shrubs and roses that you intend to cut back in the spring, a half-cut now.
If you reduce the stems by a third to a half, it should prevent wind rock. Which is when the wind catches the branches and damages the root system and to splitting, which is when branches tear off in the wind and damage the main stem of your plant. Plants like Lavatera, Buddleia and Roses can be especially susceptible to this damage. You can finish the pruning in March, ready for the new growing season to begin.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year from
Because of our relatively mild weather in Lynton and Lynmouth, several plants which would have stopped flowering and died back in other areas may well be still blooming. Particularly things like Penstemons and Roses. It is a good idea to go around and cut the flowers off, to give your plants a rest for the winter. It is very tempting to leave them, who doesn’t love a bit of unseasonal colour? But, it is better for the plant to have a rest from flowering really. Leave winter flowering to Hellebores, Pansies, Primula and the like.
If you do want to plant something very special for winter, why not treat yourself to a Daphne, a Winter Box or a Witch Hazel? They aren’t the cheapest of shrubs but all of them are winter flowering and highly scented – wonderful to cheer us up at this time of year and a really treat for any early insects. Perhaps ask for one for Christmas!