Winter-proof your garden
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.