As we settle down to the colder months, now is the time to get your garden tidied up and look forward to bringing some festive cheer inside.
It’s unbelievable how the time flies as we find ourselves at the end of another season. If there are any milder days, they bring an opportunity 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.
Overwintering your roses
It’s very important to remove dead foliage from around roses and only put on the compost heap if there is no sign of disease. This year seems to have been particularly bad for blackspot on roses, due to humid damp weather conditions for much of the summer – so you need to be careful not to spread these in anyway.
Trim your roses down and then mulch your borders with compost, well-rotted manure or bark.
While it’s mild and there’s no frost in the ground, you can still plant any bare root hedging or fruit trees… and for some winter colour to see you through the drabber days, why not plant shrubs such as viburnum fragrans or bodnantense dawn, skimmia, gaultheria 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.
Check heaters in glasshouses are working to avoid any last-minute panic. If we do get a cold spell, try and occasionally open the doors on greenhouses to allow some fresh air in; this is especially important if you use paraffin heaters, as fumes build up in a closed area and you can soon lose the plants that you’re trying so hard to preserve.
Drain down hosepipes and water features that won’t be used again until next spring, to prevent damage by frosts.
Indoor festive colour
As November draws to a close, the rush starts on purchasing traditional festive house plants. One of the best-loved Christmas plants is the poinsettia, because it brings instant colour to a room. Poinsettias like good light during the day, and they favour a warm room and hate a draught. Only water them 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, brightly coloured cyclamens are ideal. They require good light but not too much water; water just as the foliage begins to wilt and check any excess is removed from the saucer after 15 minutes. Other plants ideal for December colour are the Christmas cherry with its shiny red-orange berries and Christmas cacti which 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, but these do require plenty of water.
The art of giving
Many garden centres offer planted arrangements in bowls and baskets, which along with the colourful houseplants can be gift wrapped to create a welcome gift. Other lovely ideas might be a shrub for the garden or a planted-up tub or hanging basket specifically designed for winter colour.
If you’re feeling creative, why not have a go at making a fresh wreath for your front door – they’re relatively straightforward. If you use an oasis wreath base 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 and conifers. A lovely festive touch is to include dried fruits and nuts and cinnamon sticks. Keep the oasis moist and they’ll last the whole of the festive season.
Trees with staying power
There’s nothing quite like a real Christmas tree, and these can be found in garden centres from the end of November. The challenge is to keep your tree healthy for the season, and there are some key tips. Firstly, 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. Try to position it away from radiators, open fires or TV sets. This also applies to rooted trees, especially if you’re planning on planting it in the garden.
When choosing your tree, don’t forget to have a look inside the garden centre as most now put on spectacular Christmas displays. There’s always a multitude of baubles, garlands and lights as well as an excellent range of artificial trees which can be difficult to tell from the real thing. There is now so much choice today around lights – from solar-powered spotlights and strings of lights to battery-powered sets with timers – you’ll never forget to switch them off again!
On a final note, please remember the birds during cold weather; keep feeders topped up and offer fat balls and specialist feeds. Put out fresh water regularly especially during freezing weather.
Happy gardening to you all!