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November 2009
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January 2010

December 2009

What do you do in the garden in the winter?

What do I do in the garden in the winter, is a  question I'm often asked, I find that people are surprised that I garden all year round (and not anxious to come and join me).

Here in the south of England which has an equivalent climate to American zone nine, there will only usually be 10 to 15 days a year, when the garden is  frosted or under snow and you are not able to do any gardening at all.

I find the winter months an excellent time of the year to get on top of your weeding, to ensure leaves and debris are cleared away so that pests have nowhere to hide, and the months of January and February are excellent times for pruning a wide range of shrubs and climbers. Plus there are some fantastic shrubs that are flowering and scented in the winter months of the year, like this Hammaemelis, which is in a garden of a client.


I wouldn't suggest gardening if there is frost on the ground, so often in late December, January and February this means you've only got 2 to 3 hours of full daylight when you can get on the garden. Today I made the  full use of that three hours,

I weeded one of my front  garden borders including getting out lots of dandelions and all their tap roots, plus ground elder, which this border was completely infested with 18 months ago, but which regular attention has got down to a more manageable level.

I cleared away the leaves  that had fallen on this border from my Magnolia Grandiflora. This is evergreen, and so sheds leaves all year round, - they don't mulch down as quickly as deciduous leaves, and so if left on borders can smother the plants quickly (as well as making them look untidy).

I cut back/ deadheaded the Achillea the Pearl, Thalictrum, Rudbeckia, Heleniums and Asters, which until a few weeks ago were providing me with good looking seedheads. - Since we've had snow and frost, they are now looking bedraggled, and the birds have been taking some of the seeds.

I also took out the last of the annual Verbascum, and harvested some more seeds from them, plus harvested seeds from the sedum strawberries and cream heads. (send me a message in the comments if you are in the UK & would like some of either)

I pruned my roses (although I might go back and be a bit harder on them in late February)

I did a session of watering in the greenhouse, it is still important to water pots during the winter, but they must be done when they're not going to freeze.  at this time of year, I tend to fill up my watering cans from the waterbutt after I finished watering and leave the full cans in the greenhouse where it is slightly warmer so it doesn't freeze. My cut and come again lettuces plus Mizuna, planted mid October are now eating size, and welcomed the drink


I harvested my Christmas potatoes, they were planted by William and a friend in July, in potato bags.

The first bag had given us a small but tasty harvest at the end of November, which we'd used for roasted rosemary potatoes. This second bag had a very small and disappointing harvest, and also had some unwelcome additions to it - vine weevil larvae.

Vineweevil grubs
I put them on the step to squash them, and the chickens decided I was giving them a treat and ate them for me. (now I just have to train them to find them!)

I planted up some bulbs, - the lilies that arrived just before Christmas and some leftover mini Narsissus. I had hoped to plant up some more bulbs, but I couldn't reuse the potato compost because of the vineweevils, so i'll have to buy some more for that job, as my homemade compost needs another couple of months.

 Oh and I also planted up several seedlings from the front border, - one of which I hope is a cotinus. - I often do this to prevent myself from weeding them out next time, - just to make sure i'm not losing out on any plants.

I didn't get round to

Taking the Sunflowers out, Weeding round the raspberries, putting up my new racking for my "spare" plants, tidying up the strawberries, raking the grass where the chickens have added leaves, deadheading the cyclamen, tidying up my potting area, oh and weeding the other 6 borders in the garden. - Something to do next weekend then...

Gardens at night, - Lumiere

I love the Christmas lights at this time of year, especially when they are used to highlight trees.  So when I found out to be that the RHS gardens at Wisley, were going to be putting on a celebration of light, I put it on my list of pre-Christmas event to visit.

The blurb for lumière reads

This Christmas leave a busy world behind, and allow us to tell you what we have in mind.Let us take you by the icy hand,and lead you to a garden winter wonderland; where spectacular lights cast a magic glow, and trees above are lit up from below. Follow the trail where lights lead the way, and enjoy a radiant end to your day.


Continue reading "Gardens at night, - Lumiere" »

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day December 2009

 I did wonder whether I'd be able to find any blooms for today's photos. It is harder, but you just need to look closer to find flowers in December.

This  pot of cyclamen is still going strong, even though we've had several nights of  frost, and rather a lot of rain. They're not likely to make it all the way through the winter, but I'll keep deadheading them and enjoying them as long as I can. 

  I've also still got some Nerine Bowdenii hanging in there, these bulbs have been flowering for the last two months.


 my PENSTEMON Garnet still has  several bright pink flowers left on it.

 but my verbena bonariesis has now lost all its colour.

The Sarcoccoca Confusa isn't quite out in full bud yet, - but I can't wait for its scent to greet me at the door.

  that's all the blooms currently in my garden, however the garden I was in today for a client is a lot more mature than mine, so had several other flowering shrubs.

This Viburnum,(think it's Bodnantense Dawn) looks great in bud or flower

There are several Skimmias, - the first one is Japonica Rubella, anyone know the 2nd?

This Chanomeles has buds that are just about to burst

and I missed the flowers on this Bergenia at first.


As always, thanks to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting this opportunity for me to look closer at my garden, - i'm looking forward to comparing this years flowering plants with those in 2010.

Are your Council stars or stinkers when it comes to recycling?

 I'm a keen fan of all kinds of recycling, with compost bins, wormeries and chickens to take some of my waste, but I do find (particularly when it's cold and the compost isn't producing  quite as fast), that have leftovers of Newspapers, food waste and garden waste like leaves, and then it's a lot easier when your Council are also good on the recycling front. I like to give credit where it's due, and Guildford Council started a new recycling scheme at the beginning of November.

So far this scheme has been excellent. As well as newspapers, cardboard, bottles, batteries and clothes, that have been recycled in various bags and boxes over the last few years, we now have a green bucket to take away all our cooked or uncooked kitchen waste.

 All the recycling is collected every week, and in addition green garden waste bags are collected every other week, with the wheelie bin, which is now mostly plastic waste, being collected on alternate weeks.

The only difficulty is remembering whether it's a green bag week or wheelie bin week, but in this age of modern technology they've even come up with a solution to that.

Now every Wednesday evening at 6 PM I get a text to tell me whether I should be putting out my recycling on my rubbish.

If you are in the Guildford Borough Council area and like the idea of receiving a reminder text as well,

here's the link 

 What happens in your area? are your council stars or stinkers when it comes to recycling?

how to care for your Christmas tree - to stop those needles falling

So the tree you've just bought from your garden centre, supermarket, or roadside, has already been cut or potted for a couple weeks. How can you get the best from it and make sure that it will last all the way through to the New Year and 12th night?

To start with the longer you can keep it outside in the cool the better.

I know.... children don't want it to be sitting outside in the garden, and they want to dress the tree this weekend, so the next thing to do, is to work out where to put your Christmas tree in the house.

 This was my cut Nordman fir last year, and a very good example of making sure that you measure the height of your room, before you go out to buy your Christmas tree. We were a little bit overambitious - the result being we had to take 2 foot off the bottom of our Christmas tree and snip the lovely branches at the top as well.

What we did make sure of tho'  was to make sure that the tree wasn't sited too near the radiator.

The other thing to do is to make sure that whatever supports your Christmas tree has room for water so that the trunk, can be immersed at all times.

A large cut or potted Christmas tree can take up to a pint of water every day in a centrally heated house. Our metal tree holder had a 2 pint capacity.

There are also sprays on the market which are marketed as making your tree last longer. - What they do is cover the needles in a resin which makes it harder for them to loose water.

Basically the cooler and wetter you keep your tree, the longer those needles will stay on. - up to 12th night? - let me know.

Christmas trees - cut, potted or pot grown. Which one is for you?

Having a decorated Christmas tree in your house to celebrate the festive season is a long-standing tradition in this country,  however did you know that it may only be 1 December, but all the Christmas trees that will be sold over the next few weeks have already been cut or potted? and are on their way to us.

Christmas trees
Now that I no longer work in retail garden centres, and don't have to deal with 250 christmas trees on a Friday afternoon in the dark, I can look on them with a certain nostalgia.

So what are the difference between the different types of trees?

A pot grown Christmas tree is one which has been planted in a container as a seedling so that the root ball is completely encased in a pot and the tree is growing in a compost or growing medium.

A potted tree is one which has been grown in a field and when it has reached a reasonable size it's been dug up and placed in a pot. Sometimes with compost sometimes with sand to weigh down the pot and keep the tree steady.

A cut tree is usually a field grown specimen which during mid to late November is cuts down and transported to garden centres, nurseries and roadsides.

So what are the advantages of each type?

If you want a plant that after Christmas has a chance of surviving until next year or can be planted out in the garden, you need to choose a pot grown tree. A potted tree might have a chance of surviving in the garden but that really depends on how much root has been chopped off when it was dug out of the ground and what kind of growing medium it was put in. (plus how you treat it while in the house) A cut tree is dead or on its way to dying plant. Whatever you do, there is no way you will get it past the New Year.

Of course a pot grown tree because the roots are being restricted, will be a lot smaller than the other types and almost certainly will cost you more. However some of the varieties that are available as pot grown like Korean fir and Nordmann fir are some of the prettiest and most evenly spaced Christmas trees. 

A potted tree will cost less than a potted tree, and be slightly larger, - it will also come with a pot to support it.

A Cut tree will be the cheapest of the 3 types, and you can also get larger specimens, but don't forget they will need a support (preferably one to hold water to stave off the final death throws). Those which are labelled needle-last tend to just be species that have larger needles, which can hold water better and will therefore keep the needles on the branches for longer. This means that your hoover doesn't come I have to come out as many times over the Christmas period. 

Ok, there is one more type of tree, but you won't find an artificial one in my house, because needles or not, I love dressing a real scented conifer.

Gardeners love sharing

 One of the things I love about gardening with a lot of clients is that I get to see  different plants from those that I use at home.  Even better is that a lot of my clients are very generous and don't mind me taking home any cuttings, spare prunings, or seedlings that are excess to their gardens.

This week's bounty is some bay leaves from a Laurus Nobilis I've been pruning.


Rather handy as my packet of  bay leaves has just run out.  I've hung these up to dry next to my spice rack. As they dry out they'll give a lovely scent to my kitchen, but more importantly I'll have fresh dried bay leaves this winter from a source that I know doesn't use any chemicals and is pest free, and no cost at all.

 what do you like to share from your garden? 

Say it with flowers.

 We had a great party on Saturday night in honour of my husband's birthday.

He got the presents & the cards, but I was very touched by this bunch of flowers which I was presented with, chosen by my friend's three sons. 


They know I'm a keen gardener as I've helped them design borders in their garden and the younger two had great fun helping me shred prunings and plant vegetables earlier in the year. 

 they liked the Thistle so much that they sent mum with instructions to get the Latin name from me.

The flowers were from a local supermarket but the Roses, spider Chrysanthemums and Eryngiums (the blue thistles) can all be grown in any Surrey garden, and receiving this bouquet will definitely encourage me to grow more plants for cutting next year.

Thank you for saying it with flowers.