In cooler areas like Lancashire, seed potatoes can be 'chitted' from early to mid February. Chitting simply means encouraging the...
The fun and festivities of the Christmas season are over and we can all take a deep breath and relax! It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and looking forward. And, for gardeners, that can only mean one thing – spring is not too far away.
After some heavy downpours and even a little snow around Christmas, December finished off frosty and cold, but with some lovely clear, bright days full of sunshine. On days like these, the winter garden can be really pretty with frosted berries, leaves and twigs glistening in the sun, bright stems of Cornus showing themselves off beautifully and Hellebores really coming into their own.
Obviously there’s not much you can do in your garden when it’s frosty (except to ensure that your tender plants are protected of course), but the sunshine does make you think of warmer weather ahead and the start of a new gardening season. So, those frosty days are ideal for sitting back and making plans for the year ahead.
If, on the other hand, the weather warms up a little and stays dry, then there is plenty to be getting on with in the garden. Apple and pear trees can be pruned, removing any dead, diseased or damaged wood and cutting new growth back to four buds. Deciduous shrubs are fine to be planted, as long as the ground is neither frosty nor waterlogged.
When planting new trees and shrubs, it is always worthwhile putting the stake in prior to planting to avoid any damage to the root ball. Also, if you live in a rural area, rabbit guards are useful around new trees and shrubs, as they prevent animals such as rabbits, sheep and deer from stripping bark from the tree, damage which, depending upon severity, can destroy even established trees.
Again, as long as the ground is not frosty or waterlogged, a little bit of winter digging is a great way to banish the winter blues and get some exercise after the excesses of Christmas. Whether you’re preparing a new bed or border or just getting your vegetable patch ready for spring, winter digging is warming physical exercise and very productive.
And once that’s done, seeds can be bought, greenhouses tidied, seed trays and pots cleaned. Later in the month, onion sets and garlic will arrive in the Garden Centre along with summer flowering bulbs and, before you know it, it’ll be all systems go again!
Our feature plant this month is the hellebore or Helleborus, to give it its proper name. Hellebores are a broad range of evergreen perennials with glossy foliage and interesting nodding flowers. Although called the Christmas rose, hellebores would generally flower shortly after Christmas and into early spring. There really is a multitude of varieties now available with flowers ranging from ice white to deep pinks and purples. Perfect for a shady pot, bed or border, to bring a little bit of colour when you’d least expect it.
We wish you all a very Happy New Year – and please don’t forget to keep an eye out for our feathered friends over the festive period.