Notes from my gar­den

Alexan­dra Camp­bell is get­ting ready for win­ter – by do­ing less!

The People's Friend - - Nature -

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

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