December Gardening Tips and Snips
Colourful Christmas Houseplants
During December there is an assorted array of colourful houseplants available such as Poinsettias, Cyclamen and Azaleas. Poinsettias offer a traditional Christmas feel to your room but require a little extra care to keep them looking good. Nowadays you can pick up Poinsettias in different colours rather than just the traditional red such as red, salmon and cream and even bi-colours. Poinsettias require a warm room away from cold draughts and do not like being to dry or wet. Many people make the mistake of putting houseplants on a windowsill and closing the curtains during the evening leaving the plant trapped in a cold zone. Cyclamen are much easier to keep and will thrive in a cooler room ideal for hallways and windows sills along with Azalea plants that will do just as well in the colder rooms of the house. Just remember to keep a check on the watering as the extra heat from radiators and fires will soon dry out the plants.
Don’t forget! Houseplants make great presents at Christmas.
Solar lighting has become very popular for marking paths and border edges and you can even use easy to install low voltage sets. Lights are available in assortment of styles to match you garden from traditional carriage style designs to modern looking stainless steel sets. Why not add a set to you Christmas list?
Clear crisp days in December are ideal for cleaning out the junk in the shed and cleaning and repairing any broken or damaged tools. If you are lucky enough to own some old fashioned gardening tools new handles are easy to replace if the old one are snapped. Unfortunately many of the newer styles have none replaceable parts so will need to be thrown away. Why not ask for some new tools for Christmas such as a good pair of Secateurs or stainless steel spade.
The Perfect Christmas Trees
Many garden centres start getting deliveries of fresh Christmas trees during the end of November which will last right through Christmas if treated correctly. Once you have selected your tree and taken it home cut an inch or two off the base to open up the pores of the wood allowing it to take up water and stand it in a bucket of water outside. Leave your tree outside for as long as possible as it will last much longer outside. Once you bring it inside make sure your tree has plenty of water, a tree can drink a pint of water a day, and keep it well away from radiators and fires.
Bare Root Hedging Plants
During the winter time many plants become dormant which allows them to be dug up and moved without harm. This means hedging plants which have been grown in a field can be dug up and sold during this time making the production cost much cheaper.
During winter the weather can get in the way of your gardening plans, but that does give you a rest to sit back and reflect what worked well during the last year and what can be done during the coming year. Why not plan new and interesting features such as water features and summer houses or simply re-design you’re planted up areas of the garden. Some of the major projects take a while to come together and obtain all the parts such as pergolas and arch ways which will add structure to the garden.
Feed the Birds During Winter
Attracting wild birds which stay in the garden during winter are helpful to gardeners by eating many of the overwintering bugs and beasties that would normally wake up in spring and chomp through your plants. By offering high energy wild bird food and a clean supply of water they are more likely to stay in your garden eating up any bugs they find while they are there.
Protect from Ice Damage
During the winter garden equipment, hoses and spray guns can easily be damaged when any water inside turns to ice and expands. The best way to stop this from happening is to move any such equipment into a frost free shed or garage. Where this is not possible such as a large water butt or outside tap they should be left to drain and either turned off at an isolation tap or for a water butt left with the tap open and a brick inside to stop the butt from blowing away in the wind.
Many people don’t bother with winter hanging baskets, but these can really help to brighten up a drab looking front garden when not much is in full flower. There are many plants such as winter pansies, cyclamen and violas that will give colour right through until the coldest winter days.
With their glossy, evergreen foliage and large flowers in spring, camellias are the perfect way of brightening up the garden. Buy yourself some now or give them as presents. They need a lime-free soil, so if your soil isn’t suitable you can grow them in large pots.
Plants of the month
During December many of the plants with large showy blossoms have finished and the winter interest comes from leaf, bark and stem colour although there are still a few plants daring to put on a show.
Trees and shrubs such as the autumn flowering cherry which starts to flower when the nights get cooler and carries on in sporadic bursts often through to spring along with Viburnum Bodnantense and Mahonia. Some of the plants that produce berries are still looking good if the birds have not started to scoff the fruit, these include plants such as Skimmia, Sorbus and Callicarpa.
Now that many plants have lost the leaves you can start to see the colour in bark and stems of such plants as Prunus serrula and Cornus midwinter fire or the ghostly looking Betula Jacquemontii.