Notes from my garden
Alexandra Campbell is getting ready for winter – by doing less!
IT’S time to start thinking about getting the garden ready for winter. Winter gardening has changed a lot in the last few years, and there’s much more interest in winter gardens, too. I think this is because so many people have now got large glass windows or doors, especially in their kitchens.
Top garden designer Andy Sturgeon says that “package holidays revolutionised garden design”, because people came home from holiday and started to put in glass patio doors.
Those early patio doors from the 1960s and 70s have now evolved into the 21st-century fashion for having the whole of the back of your house in glass (although not all of us have gone that far).
Many of us can see our gardens all year round now. So what does this mean for your garden in winter?
Ironically, there’s much less emphasis on tidying and clearing away. Personally, I love the sight of seedheads and grasses covered in frost, outlined by the winter sun.
Flowers that keep their shape when dead, such as asters, now called symphotricum, and phlomis, look wonderful in a winter garden.
Of course, some plants just collapse in a blackened heap at the first sign of frost. My dahlias slump from gorgeousness to grunge overnight as soon as temperatures drop.
But fewer people now dig up dahlias to store them over winter, especially if they’re short of space.
I think it’s worth seeing if your dahlias can survive the winter in the ground. Cut away the dead leaves and flowers, then cover the plant really generously with mulch. I also put a cane marker in, to show where the plant was.
Not all my dahlias have survived being left in the ground over winter, but those that do have flourished and spread.
We’re also more aware of what wildlife needs. Don’t deadhead the last roses – leave the hips to develop. The birds will thank you for them.
I do make some crab
apple jelly, but I leave some fruit on, too. It looks so beautiful on a frosty morning, and provides food for wildlife over the winter.
Don’t be too tidy, either. Instead of bagging up leaves and taking them to the tip, rake them to the sides of the garden. They’ll provide shelter for insects and small mammals.
Ultimately, they’ll decompose into a nourishing mulch for your soil, too.
I wondered whether everything would blow around the garden again if there was a strong wind, but I raked a large heap of leaves into a corner just before one of last winter’s most vigorous storms and
the leaves stayed there.
I have never succeeded in making mulch out of leaves in plastic sacks. If it works for you, great. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.
If you do want to try making leaf mould out of fallen leaves, be aware that it needs oxygen and moisture. Fill the sacks with leaves, puncture them in lots of places, make sure the leaves are wet, and then leave them hidden away for at least two years.
Occasionally revisit the sacks to make sure the leaves stay wet. But it’s quite a lot of work for relatively little mulch, so I prefer to let the leaves decompose at the backs of borders or under shrubs. n