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Site last updated on 24 July, 2020
December Calendar (Courtesy of the ‘Sunday Gardener’)
Enjoy the winter conditions
There is plenty of advice on this page about dealing with problems caused by the wintry conditions and so it is easy to overlook that the garden can look very lovely at this time of year. A severe frost will illuminate the ornamental. The garden is just as beautiful on a sunny day in winter as a sunny summers day. On so many days the ground is frozen and it’s tempting to stay indoors in the warm. There is the additional benefit that the comment not to walk on frozen grass is correct as it really does damage the lawn.
Prune to prevent Wind rock in roses
High winds in winter can cause problems with roses especially the taller varieties. Windy weather can cause "wind rock" which is damaging. When roses are left tall the wind, if strong, can cause the plant to shift about in the wind which creates a gap where the stem enters the soil. This gap can get bigger as the plant moves about in the wind which then allows water gets in around the stem and freeze. It is possible to reduce the plant's vulnerability to "wind rock" by pruning down by around a third. Only prune roses during a mild spell otherwise it is possible the frost may damage the growth bud below the cut and cause die back of the stem.
Some plants which are not fully hardy need winter protection. To ensure winter survival, it is best to bring the plants in under glass and raise the container so it is off the ground by inserting feet or raising on bricks. If overwintering outside it is important to wrap the container with something insulating, bubble wrap, Hessian, or old jumpers and if it’s going to be very cold, cover the plant with a fleece. It is equally important to remove the fleece when the cold spell finishes to ensure the plant gets plenty of air circulation. Plants covered all winter, or covered up for too longer spell often get damp and rot which means it is best to limit cover to the cold spell.
Looking forward to Spring
Winter can be a good time for weeding as the battle against the weeds has been lost by the end of the summer, especially as plants are so lush the weeds are hidden and only fully revealed as the time comes to clear the borders. After a frost is a good time to weed; the ground yields the weeds more easily.
Come the spring Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) get a bad press as a zealous self-seeding cottage plant. Bad press or not, forget-me-nots can offer much welcomed early spring colour and look fantastic with spring bedding and in a natural setting along-side a stream in a semi wild patch.
For the best spring display of Forget-me-nots now is a good time to thin out the plants, as they do self-seed vigorously and thinning helps to make sure you have a good display. If they grow as seeded they can be too close together making them more prone to mildew.
Keep off the grass
It's true. Walking on the frost frozen grass really does cause damage. When frozen, the leaves become brittle, and will not yield to pressure, and so snap and break when trodden on in frosty conditions.
The image shows where the grass has been walked on and will leave brown marks where the grass is damaged, which look unsightly in the spring and the damage will make that patch more susceptible to disease. Given how hard it is to create a decent lawn its worth resisting walking on it during the very cold weather.
It is a good tip to knock snow off shrubs. All shrubs are at risk but those with the more open crowns are most at risk. The snow piles into the open centre which forces the branches out until they snap. On all shrubs, snow weighs down the branches, and can freeze to the ground bending it over until it snaps.
A good tip for snowy weather: get out there as soon as you can with a soft broom and brush it off the tops and free branches tied down by snow which will save the shrub, and money if you have to replace it in the spring. Snow is far more destructive than it seems.
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