Gardening Tips for December

December can be a quiet time in the garden, but there are plenty of tidying up jobs to do, and lots of houseplants to keep you busy – and of course the Christmas Tree to look after!

Wrap up warm….
You and your plants! If you haven’t already done so, get some fleece or fleece bags ready to put over tender plants such as phormiums, cordylines, hebe and tree ferns once the frosts arrive. Cut back the stems of herbaceous perennials that have finished for the year – phlox, lupins, delphiniums. Reduce stem lengths on roses to prevent them rocking and loosening in the winds. Once you have cleaned up, and cut back your borders, they can be mulched with compost, well-rotted manure or bark.

Planting
If there’s no frost in the ground, there is just enough time to plant bare root hedging and fruit trees. New seasons roses will now be coming into garden centres, by buying them at this time of year you get the best range of varieties and the plants have chance to settle into the ground before the weather gets too bad.

Pools
Continue to clean up leaves as they fall from trees, particularly where they are likely to fall into pools, preventing them from decaying where you keep fish. If we do get some snow and ice try putting a ball onto the surface so that you can keep an area free of ice allowing the air to circulate. Pool heaters are a good idea for cold winters and the fish will congregate by the warmth!

Greenhouses
Check heaters in glasshouses to make sure that they continue to work when needed. 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.

Living Colour for Christmas
Pot plants in beautiful gift bowls such as cyclamen, azalea, kalanchoe, and orchids all make great presents for Christmas – as do locally grown Poinsettias which can now be found in a range of colours. Christmas plants provide colour during the winter months and with proper care, their flowers and fruits will often live for several months.

Other plants ideal for Christmas colour are the Christmas Cherry with its shiny red-orange berries and Christmas cacti produce beautiful red, orange, white or lavender flowers.

Christmas Trees
From the end of November, fresh Christmas trees will be available. Look out for species such as Nordman Firs (Abies nordmanniana), and Norway Spruce (Picea abies). Proper care of your Christmas tree is essential to guard against loss of moisture, colour, and needle drop. Here are some tips to keep your tree fresh and beautiful so that you can enjoy it throughout the Christmas season.

Proper Care
When you get your tree home, leave it outside for as long as possible. When you do take it inside, make sure that you stand a saucer underneath it so that you can water it regularly. Keep the base of the tree moist whilst inside as the warm temperature and dry air will make the tree absorb water quickly. Make sure the tree is away from sources of heat such as radiators, open fires and TV sets. This will keep the loss of moisture to a minimum.

Rooted Trees
If you want a rooted tree, Nordman firs, Norway Spruce, Fraser fir and Blue Spruce are all good. Try not to keep the tree indoors for more than 14 days and after Christmas, take the tree back outside and stand against the warmest side of the house for a day or so to help the tree adjust itself to the colder outdoor temperatures. Make sure that if we get a mild spell the tree is kept watered. Hopefully you will see new shoots appear on your tree in spring.

Feed the Birds
Don’t forget the birds this winter – feed them daily, and remember that once it freezes, birds still need a supply of fresh water.

And once the weather gets too cold and frosty to get into the garden, its time to dig out the seed catalogues for 2013 and start planning for a new season! If we do get some bad weather, we have in stock bags of pure 100% rock salt, snow shovels, sledges and window scrappers.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2013 to you all.

This month’s tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley.

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