As the sun shines at the end of September it doesn’t seem possible that within a few weeks our attention will be turned to winter and Christmas. While the weathers mild it’s time to get the garden ready for winter. Make sure you’ve got fleece or fleece bags ready to put over tender plants such as Cordylines, Hebes, Tree Ferns and other semi hardy plants once the frosts arrive.
Remove leaves from around roses and other deciduous plants and put onto on the compost heap. Borders can then be mulched with compost, well rotted manure or bark.
If the weathers not too cold and there’s no frost in the ground, you can still plant any bare root hedging or fruit trees, and for some winter colour in the garden why not plant shrubs such as the Witch Hazel, Skimmias or Leucothoe.
Continue planting pansies, wallflowers and winter bedding, the sooner it’s done now the better. If we do get a cold frosty spell winter pansy flowers will droop down but once they thaw out in the sun they pop back up giving colour even on a cold day. November is the ideal month for planting tulip bulbs.
Now that most of the herbaceous perennials have finished for the year, cut back the stems to near ground level, leaving a few inches to give clumps some protection against extremes of weather – phlox, lupins, delphiniums. Reduce stem lengths on roses to prevent them rocking and loosening in the winds. Firm in newly planted shrubs to prevent rocking.
Check heaters in glasshouses are working to avoid any last minute panic. If we do get a cold spell, try and open the doors on greenhouses occasionally to allow some fresh air in, this is especially important with paraffin heaters, where fumes build up in a closed area and you can soon lose the plants that you’re trying to keep. Drain down hosepipes and water features that won’t be used again until next spring, to prevent damage by frosts.
As the end of November approaches, many people start to purchase the traditional Christmas house plants. One of the best Christmas plants is the Poinsettia. It gives instant colour in a room. They like good light during the day and a warm room at all times, never in a draught. So never buy from the street or just inside a draughty door of a supermarket. Only water when the soil is dry and never stand in water for longer than 10 minutes. They will colour up again next year, but must be kept in a room that has no artificial light from September onwards.
If you have a cooler room the brightly coloured cyclamen will be ideal. They require good light at all times. The most common cause of failure with this plant is overwatering. Only water just as the foliage begins to wilt and make sure that any excess water is removed from saucers after 15 minutes. Other plants ideal for Christmas colour are the Christmas Cherry with its shiny red-orange berries. Christmas cacti produce beautiful red, pink, orange, white or lavender flowers. Azaleas will flourish in either a warm or cool room and are very easy to keep, requiring plenty of water.
Along with many garden centres we offer Planted Arrangements in bowls and baskets, which along with the colourful houseplants can be gift wrapped, making them an ideal present. For a living gift consider buying a shrub for the garden or a planted up tub or hanging basket specifically designed for winter colour.
Why not have a go at making a fresh wreath for your front door – they’re relatively straight forward to do if you use an oasis wreath base and there’s so much you can put in them which you can cut from your garden or local hedgerows – holly, ivy, coloured foliage shrubs, winter berries, Christmas roses, conifer and why not include dried fruits and nuts and cinnamon sticks. Keep the oasis moist and they’ll last till Christmas ends.
From the end of November, freshly cut Christmas trees will be available in centres. When you get your tree home, put it in a stand or pot that can be kept moist, as warm temperatures and dry air inside the home make the tree absorb water very rapidly. Keep away from hot radiators, open fires and TV sets. This also applies to rooted trees, especially if you’re planning on planting it in the garden after Christmas.
When choosing your Christmas tree, don’t forget to have a look inside the garden centre. Most like our own centre put on spectacular Christmas displays. There’s always a multitude of baubles, garlands, lights and lit villages and if you don’t want a real tree, there’s an excellent range of artificial ones which can be difficult to tell from the real thing. Have a look in the festive light department if you get a chance – there’s so much choice today from solar powered spotlights and strings of lights to battery powered sets and the huge range of electrical sets which will switch on at dusk and switch off a few hours later – you’ll never forget to switch them off again.
Once the bad weather arrives, don’t forget bags of rock salt, outdoor tap covers, snow shovels, sledges and window scrappers. Remember the birds during cold weather, keep feeders topped up and offer fat balls and specialist feeds to encourage a wide range of birds into your garden. Put out fresh water regularly especially during freezing weather.