29 November 2014 - 12:31pm

Putting the garden to bed for winter

If you’re a bit of a dreamer like me the mild weather may have lulled you into a false sense of security – or more accurately a false sense that the garden will stay looking like it’s late summer for the next 6 months! Clearly, and as certain as death and taxes, winter will come, so it’s worth getting ready for it. As much as anything else a bit of planning and toil now will not only get your garden looking tidier, but it can also make sure you have a good show next year. Having said ‘tidier’ one bit advice I’d give is don’t be too tidy! It’s a well -rehearsed mantra that wildlife likes a few weeds, leaves and general messiness to eat and live in. Apart from that if you are too assiduous with your weeding and mulching you may be digging up or smothering seedlings that can make your borders look really pretty and naturalistic next year. Seedlings of forget me nots, foxgloves, poppies and verbena to mention just a few will be getting going right now and are worth leaving to develop over winter. If there are a lot growing together in a clump, weed out most of them to leave few inches around each new plant to let it grow well without too much competition. Tender plants such as dahlias, cannas, agaves, eucomis and some cordylines need bringing in to a frost free place. Having said that, I have clumps of dahlias and eucomis planted in a fairly sheltered spot I leave in the ground – a decent mulch of grit or compost usually protects them. They come a bit later than the ones I protect in the greenhouse, but I don’t mind that. If your cordylines or other tender leafy plants are too big to bring in or you are feeling brave, you can pop some straw into their centres and tie them up with string, it will protect them to some extent but doesn’t look pretty. Now is a good time to plant up some pots for the spring. Tulips can be planted right up to December and be fine in my experience. If you soak them in tonic water with quinine in it for a couple of hours before you plant them it usually prevents the squirrels from noshing them, the little critters. I swear they go to the garden centre and find out which are the most expensive ones to make sure they eat all those first! If you pop a few plants of spring bedding – violas and primroses are my favourite – on top you will have a pot to keep you happy for a long while. Roses can now be bought bare rooted and ready to plant. You don’t have the advantage of seeing them in flower, but if you know what you want it’s far cheaper and they settle in better this time of year. Prepare the ground well, roses like rich, nutritious soil so will thrive in our heavy clay. Fruit trees can also be purchased in this way. Next time I’ll be making suggestions for Christmas presents again. Where on earth does the time go….