Monday, 28 December 2015



We generally plan our gardens for spring and summer colour, then enjoy
the autumn as leaves take on the golds, orange and red hues, but as winter approaches and the weather becomes colder we are less inclined to wander around enjoying the garden. Garden tasks however continue with winter digging, pruning, repairing fences, planting trees and shrubs and hedges and moving plants indoors or under shelter to give them some winter protection. We also have to clear paths of snow, sprinkle salt on drives, and on a sunny day there is always a few remaining leaves to sweet up. To keep our spirits raised on these cold days outdoors it is a good idea to establish a winter garden that will have its days of impact during the winter months. There are a lot of plants that have very attractive variegated foliage such as the gold and silver Euonymus, or the yellow edged Elaeagnus and even the black grass, Ophiogogon now gets some attention without having to compete with spring and summer flowers. Then of course there are a lot of shrubs with highly coloured stems such as the Cornus, (dorwoods with red, orange and black stems) the salix, (willow with red, orange and grey stems,) Kerria japonica with green stems and Rubus with stems covered in a white bloom. To create impact, grow these shrubs together in a drift against a dark green hedge or some Rhododendrons and Camellias. Although these can grow quite tall, most get pruned right back to stumps at ground level in spring so do not interfere with the Rhododendrons or camellias in flower in April.
Flowering plants can also be found in mid winter. Both the scented Viburnum Dawn shrub and yellow climber Jasminum nudiflorum will continue to flower all winter provided they get a few sunny days together.
To add a bit of height to the border there are plenty of taller shrubs such as the coral bark maple Acer sangokaku and a few smaller trees well worth a place for their winter bark. The white stemmed Betula jaquemontia
is a must have if you can afford the space as it is a real show stopper all year round. The list grows longer if you have room for more small trees as several more maples and Prunus (cherries) have ornamental variegated or peeling bark. Eucalyptus can also be used as it has very attractive smooth bark in shades of warm greys and the foliage is always a lovely blue grey colour. However it is a forest tree which needs a lot of room, so keep it down to a reasonable size by cutting back in late winter.
The front of the border is the place for a few drifts of Calluna heathers with yellow and bronze evergreen foliage that brightens up after a bit of frost. The black grass is another ideal plant for the front of the border and if you plant snowdrops underneath it you will create a very modern attractive show in February when the pristine snowdrops open above the black ground cover of the Ophiopogon grass. I tend to use the winter border to extend the show into spring by under planting the whole area with snowdrops, aconites, and crocus, as these flower immediately you have pruned back all the shrubs in March. However do not prune the Kerria till after it has flowered in late spring and only cut back some of the old flowering shoots to ground level, leaving all the fresh green shoots to flower the next year. The display of bulbs can continue with both daffodils and tulips and even the taller summer flowering oriental lilies can be found a spot as they will just grow through the growing shrubs quite happily.

Wee jobs around the garden

Unheated greenhouses still house and grow plants right through the winter. I overwinter my fuchsias, outdoor chrysanthemum stools, many recently propagated shrubs in small pots and spring flowering hanging baskets full of pansies. I also grow some spring onions, winter lettuce and many other salads. It is a good idea to give these plants some extra protection by lining the glass with a layer of bubble polythene. You can get special clips to hold it in place so there is an air gap between the polythene and the glass, to help the insulation. If you have a grape vine try to keep this on the outside of the insulation as they benefit from a winter chill.


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