Gardening? In December?

  1. Protect less hardy shrubs such as yucca, bay or olives by covering them in fleece or if they’re in pots bringing them under cover in the coldest weather.
  2. Plant roses such as Rosa rubiginosa or Rosa moyesii or Rosa rugosa for their brilliant bright red winter hips.
  3. Clean and wash used pots and seed trays ready for next spring.
  4. Prune overgrown deciduous hedges such as beech or hornbeam (avoiding frosty days)
  5. Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous climbers such as wisteria, vines or Virginia creeper.
  6. Remove fallen leaves from borders where they can smother small plants.
  7. Dig in compost or well rotted farmyard manure into the veg plot, (avoiding sodden soil).
  8. Feed and water birds regularly.
  9. For intense fragrance plant winter flowering Daphne bholua, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Viburnum farreri or Lonicera x purpussii ‘Winter Beauty’.
  10. Plant a group of Helleborus x hybridus for winter flower colour.
  11. Remove dead, dying or diseased branches from fruit trees
  12. Put feet or bricks underneath pots, tubs and containers to help with drainage and with alleviating frost damage.
  13. Prune deciduous trees and shrubs but leave magnolias until summer and stone fruit such as cherries until late spring.
  14. Apply a thick layer of mulch over border-line hardy plants such as Agapanthus.
  15. Prune back long growth on roses.
  16. If buying a potted Christmas tree ensure it is ‘container grown’ and not ‘containerised’.
  17. Pinch out the growing tips of autumn sown sweet peas.
  18. Prune grapevines
  19. Plant trees and shrubs if the ground is not frozen
  20. Divide rhubarb and give a section to a friend or neighbour.

Although in winter the garden can be sodden or gripped by frost and ice it need not signal the end of the garden’s year. Indeed, in contrast to the thrill of spring and abundance of summer I look forward to the bareness of winter. This is the time of year when I see things completely differently. Gone are the bright distracting colours of spring bulbs, the shiny lime green of new leaves and the sweet summery scent of flowers. Instead, the garden is naked in all its bare glory with nothing to distract the eye or mind from the basic layout and structure of the garden.

Seeing the bare bones of a garden in winter and applying some constructive criticism (often helped by taking photographs which you can study in the warmth and comfort of your armchair), can pay dividends next year. Practically any garden can benefit from a thorough examination of the framework upon which the stylish clothes of spring and summer will hang next year. The trick is to ask yourself this question: Is there enough winter structure? Aim for at least one third evergreen planting, this will magically make the garden ‘work’ all year around.

This is also the perfect time of year to visit the larger, grander gardens that remain open to the public in winter and when they are quiet and peaceful. You can ’borrow’ all sorts of ideas that would never have come to mind by themselves.