At the end of an annum with more than its fair share of ups and downs, Ann Winwood reflects on the last 12 months on the plot.
Here we are again coming to the end of another gardening year – one that’s certainly had its moments. But have you noticed that it all sorted itself out and most things ended up doing well? I wonder if that’s a lesson we should apply to life in general!
With more chemicals being removed from the shelves and people’s desire to garden naturally, good maintenance becomes even more important. Composting leaves and rubbish to use as a mulch is good for the garden but remember never to add diseased foliage to the heap. Once clearing up is finished, borders can be top-dressed with compost, well-rotted manure or bark.
Beat the cold
While it’s mild and there’s no frost in the ground, plant bare-root hedging and fruit trees. For some winter colour in the garden, opt for shrubs such as viburnum fragrans or bodnantense dawn, skimmias, gaultherias or leucothoe. Smaller shrubs can be planted into baskets and pots for colour during the winter and then transferred into the garden in the spring when you replant for summer.
For some winter colour in the garden, opt for shrubs such as viburnum fragrans or bodnantense dawn, skimmias, gaultherias or leucothoe…
Continue planting pansies, wallflowers and winter bedding; the sooner it’s done the better! If we do get a sharp frost, winter pansy flowers will droop, but once they thaw out in the sun they pop back up giving colour even on a cold day. And for a glorious spring show, 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 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 Christmas house plants, especially poinsettia plants. These vivid red plants instant colour in a room. They like good light during the day and a warm room, never in a draught. To keep your poinsettia perky, only water when the soil is dry and never stand in water for longer than 10 minutes.
In a cooler room, the brightly coloured cyclamen is ideal. They need good light at all times. Only water just as the foliage begins to wilt and make sure that any excess water is removed from saucers after 15 minutes. Also consider the Christmas cherry with its shiny red-orange berries, or Christmas cacti with their beautiful shrimp-like red, pink, white or lavender flowers. Azaleas will flourish in either a warm or cool room and are very easy to keep, requiring plenty of water.
The most popular plants this year have been cacti and succulents, which have seen something of a revival in popularity. They’re extremely easy to look after and require watering only occasionally this season. They’ll sit on a windowsill above a radiator quite happily and starting at around £1-2, they’re a good plant for children to begin with. Plants are good for the atmosphere too, of course, as they take in CO2 and release oxygen back out. Some of the best oxygenating plants include calathea, spathiphyllum, palms and chlorophytum.
Consider the Christmas cherry with its shiny red-orange berries, or Christmas cacti with their beautiful shrimp-like red, pink, white or lavender flowers…
Along with many garden centres, we offer planted arrangements in baskets, which along with 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.
From the end of November, freshly cut Christmas trees will be available. 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.
If the bad weather arrives, don’t forget bags of rock salt, outdoor tap covers, snow shovels, sledges and window scrapers. 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.
Stay warm and happy gardening!