Gardening: Whatever the weather

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Garden designer Sally Cunis gives us hints and tips on how to stay active in the garden this winter, whatever the weather.

Crocus

On the whole, gardeners are optimistic and regard the New Year as a wonderful opportunity to make their gardens more spectacular than ever!

If turning over a new leaf (excuse the pun) is one of your New Year’s resolutions, it can be helpful to write two lists; the first setting out jobs that can be done indoors, if the weather is poor, and the second, jobs to do in the garden right now, subject of course to the vagaries of the weather.

Prioritise and be realistic ensuring you don’t embark on tasks you can’t possibly achieve at this time of year.

Indoors:

Orchids

If the weather is too bad to be working in the garden, your list of indoor jobs could include some of the following ideas:

  • Tidy and organise the shed including cleaning pots with a dilute solution of Jeyes fluid for reuse next season
  • Organise a mower service unless you are competent at draining the mower oil, checking spark plugs etc.
  • Chit first early potatoes in a frost-free room
  • Plant up containers for seasonal colour with primulas, hardy cyclamen and variegated foliage to brighten winter days
  • Move plants such as Orchids and Clivia into a warm room or conservatory to flower
  • Winter is the best time to see the structure of the garden, any problems with its layout, gaps in planting and to plan any changes required
  • Finally do some armchair gardening and relax with seed and plant catalogues and dream of warmer months!

Outdoors:

Seating area flanked by planted baths

If it’s not too cold, wet, snowy or icy outside the following list will get you out into the garden:

  • Check tree ties and stakes against wind rock
  • Get on with some winter digging; cover prepared soil with polythene/membrane to allow soil to warm up prior to planting
  • If you failed to do so before Christmas, wrap up any slightly tender plants and potted plants still in the garden
  • Carry on planting out bare-root trees, shrubs and roses. This can be done until the end of March ( but no later as once they are in leaf, plants will lose moisture quickly and are less easy to establish)
  • Clear away old rhubarb leaves and debris and set a rhubarb forcer, large pot or old dustbin over the crown to encourage fresh young stems
  • Towards the end of February, winter pruning of hardy shrubs such as Buddleia and Spirea can be carried out. In the kitchen garden, currants, gooseberries and fruit trees can be pruned.

If the weather is fine, stroll round the garden and enjoy the surprising perfumes and delights of the early spring garden. Look out for snowdrops, crocus, winter aconites and hellebores which brighten the leaf litter around the trees whilst Daphne, Sarcococca and Clematis Armandii fill the air with scent.

Last autumn I filled two old aluminium baths with a wide variety of bulbs from my mother, topped with little violas and winter heathers. They are placed either side of a seating area part way down the garden so I will have to venture out, whatever the weather, to see what magic is working there!

Happy New Year!

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