Winter gardening: so much to look forward to!
As we approach the final month of autumn, with the traditional rush to clear away thousands of leaves approaching its peak, some of you may be contemplating winter as a season of inactivity. To some, winter is a period of calm before the riotous onset of spring.
Horticulturally speaking winter can be wonderful and rewarding time of year: winter flowering plants will illuminate a garden where colour is at a premium. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is one of the earliest flowering shrubs and will tolerate a north wall. Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) is at its best in mid to late winter with clusters of small white flowers that fill the air with a powerful jasmine scent. The elegant Daphne spp. bear exquisite and highly scented flowers from February onwards.
A true winter wonder is witch hazel (Hamamelis). Perhaps an unremarkable deciduous shrub during summer that truly comes into its own in winter with its scented, tendril-like flowers. Don’t forget the highly coloured stems of Cornus. There are numerous species and cultivars that radiate bright reds, greens, orange and yellow. A well-lit space in mid-winter will give a stunning, colour-rich display.
What to add underneath the canopy of these winter specimens? Among the best are snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), winter iris (Iris reticulata) and Cyclamen coum. All take up very little room, slowly colonizing and improving their display year after year and are so easy to look after.
More winter tips:
Winter pruning: tree fruit such as apples and pears should be pruned in winter.
Acers and birches, along with vines should be pruned in early winter (preferably before Christmas). Wisteria should be meticulously pruned in late winter.
Mulching: In nature, organic matter such as leaf fall slowly decays and breaks down into the soil. This is how soil retains its health and fertility. I know I’ve made a big fuss about mulching but as most gardens are designed not to allow for the recycling of garden waste as compost then mulching with well-rotted stable manure is an excellent means of improving soil health and condition.
When the conditions are favourable mulching in winter significantly boost soil condition, allow for easier cultivation and, above all, plays a major part in good plant health.
Planting: It is true to say the invention of the plastic pot in the 1960’s transformed one’s ability to plant all year round. However, ‘higher’ plants such as trees and shrubs are still best planted in late autumn and winter to allow the roots to establish. Root growth is the precursor the abundant and sustained top growth that we see as the plant ‘coming to life’. In fact there is a huge amount of activity going on in winter that we observers cannot see.
Lawns: In winter lawns are at their least active and turf grass can be damaged by too much pedestrian traffic. Autumn lawn treatments, aerating and top-dressing should have been completed by winter. If your lawn is persistently wet during winter then as soon as the conditions are favourable your lawn should be aerated and top-dressed. This is the most sustainable way of gradually improving the health and condition of your lawn.
Weeding: As I mentioned earlier, the impression of the garden going to sleep in winter belies the fact that many plants are making headway in winter where there is less competition. This is also true of weeds. Ephemeral plants like hairy bittercress (Cardimine hirsuta) will germinate in winter because they depend on reproducing as many times as possible in the growing season in order to proliferate. A single plant allowed to flower and set seed can disperse hundreds of new seeds that will germinate and grow rapidly.
Tap rooted weeds like dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and prickly bramble (Rubus fruiticosus) are very effectively removed by hand when the soil is wet and the roots no longer have the ability to anchor as securely as in summer.
Winter bedding: Why not add some winter colour with hanging baskets or planters displaying the likes of Viola or bedding Cyclamen? Garden Care can replant your hanging baskets or containers for you. Just ask your gardeners to take them with them and they will be delivered the next time they visit.
Don’t miss out this winter. If you haven’t arranged for winter gardening with Garden Care contact Garry Mumford to arrange your winter schedule or talk to your gardening team who can ask Garry to call you.
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