Win­ter-proof your gar­den

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At this busy time of year, your gar­den can pro­vide the per­fect re­treat, says Will Clark

It’s that time of year again, when the fruit and fo­liage in our trees are re­placed by fairy lights. On bright, frosty days, our gar­dens feel and look fes­tive, and there re­ally isn’t a bet­ter place to be if you are seek­ing some peace and quiet.

There aren’t many rou­tine jobs at this time of year, which is quite handy con­sid­er­ing ev­ery­thing else you have go­ing on. How­ever, there are cer­tainly some things you can be get­ting on with, so if you’re look­ing for an ex­cuse to get you out of wrap­ping presents, or just a way of warm­ing your­self up on cold days, your gar­den may hold the an­swer.

If you have a Ja­panese maple (Acer pal­ma­tum or Acer japon­ica) which needs prun­ing to keep in shape, then do it this month as this will pre­vent bleed­ing which may oc­cur if you leave the prun­ing too late. Pre­pare for strong win­ter winds by re­mov­ing dead or de­cay­ing branches from ma­ture trees and check­ing that all other stakes, trel­lis and sup­port­ing struc­tures are se­cure.

Some fore­cast­ers are pre­dict­ing a very cold win­ter this year so you might need to be pre­pared to of­fer some pro­tec­tion for the ten­der plants in your gar­den. Have some bub­ble wrap or fleece ready for those plants that you can’t move to a frost-free place. If there is a heavy snow­fall, gen­tly knock off any that has rested on your plants to pre­vent them be­ing dam­aged un­der the weight.

Check green­house heaters are work­ing, wash down tools and maybe have shears and se­ca­teurs sharp­ened. Take ac­tion to pre­vent ponds and stand­pipes freez­ing, and keep any bird feed­ing sta­tions topped up.

ABOVE: Ma­ho­nia charity adds a splash of colour

If the ground is not frozen or wa­ter­logged, you can add plants to your gar­den to pro­vide some win­ter in­ter­est. The beau­ti­ful, delicate flow­ers of Helle­borus niger, oth­er­wise known as Christ­mas Rose, are a wel­come ad­di­tion to your border at this time of year, as are the pretty red berries of Skim­mia.

An­other plant I find par­tic­u­larly valu­able in the colder months is Ma­ho­nia, a strik­ing ev­er­green shrub which will add some ar­chi­tec­tural form to your gar­den as well as a bright splash of colour. The va­ri­eties ‘Win­ter Sun’ and ‘Charity’ are great ex­am­ples of this eye-catch­ing plant, both with long racemes of pretty yel­low flow­ers above bold, spiky, dark green fo­liage.

Re­mem­ber, too, that as well as dec­o­rat­ing your home in­side, you can add some fes­tive style to your front door, with the ad­di­tion of a pot­ted, real Christ­mas tree. Th­ese life­time trees can be added to your gar­den af­ter Christ­mas, ei­ther in their pots or planted. Choose a va­ri­ety such as Nord­mann Fir and make sure it has been pot grown.

And, one last thing, if you haven’t fin­ished your Christ­mas shop­ping, re­mem­ber that the gar­den­ing en­thu­si­asts in your life will ap­pre­ci­ate a liv­ing gift. A gar­den plant for Christ­mas re­ally is the gift that keeps on giv­ing.

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