It may be cold outside but set yourself just 5 little tasks to do in your garden this month and it will help make your Christmas merry and bright ✨
* 1 - Plant a tree - save the world *
There were lots of schemes around the country last week for National Tree Week so you may have become a new tree-parent - if you need some help getting the planting just right have a look at this video on the RHS site 🌳 . For more ways of getting involved with Trees have a look at the Tree council website
Our planet needs an army of new trees to grow in order to help it, and us, survive and if that isn’t a good enough reason to plant a tree then let’s hope you have a better solution! Even with all the targeted tree-plantings organised in the UK it isn’t enough and now is the best time to buy and plant a small or large tree depending on your garden/allotment (check your allotment rules as some only allow productive ‘food-producing’ trees) or maybe get involved in some local community plantings in local parkland.
If you have a small garden or no garden, maybe talk to neighbours about a potted tree by the front door or in communal areas, but agree who is going to being its main carer. It will need water just like the rest of us!
* 2 - Cut back rotting stems, but leave pretty ones *
…of perennials that is! The seedheads and blackened stems of many perennials look stunning when touched by frost so leave them until the early Spring but any that have flopped and are going mushy around the base of your precious plants can be cut away and composted ❄️
Plants like Sea Holly can look stunning in the winter when frost transforms their spiky heads into miniature Snow Queen crowns. Lots of grasses and flowering plants keep their heads above ground right through the winter months. Leave any that are looking great for the birds to feast on and insects to hide in but if they are looking touched by dark magic, flopping and black and rotting around the base of your plants, then off with their heads. Cut them back to ground level and add to the compost heap. If you don’t have room for a compost heap then tuck dead stems under hedges where they not only create new habitats, they will gradually breakdown and help the soil too.
* 3 - Plant red things *
…either plants with glowing berries or bright red cyclamen; they will add a true splash of Christmas spirit to your pots. 🎅🏽🌺
Nothing beats red at Christmas time. It glows with positivity, provides a welcome and much-needed splash of pizazz and can come either in the form of berries or bedding. I’m not a huge fan of bedding as I feel it’s unsustainable - plants that are intensely bred only to be discarded as the season moves on - but I forgive them in Winter when pots and containers near our doors or in view from the house, need a little lift. Scarlet Cyclamen are perfect for this and aren’t too expensive. They can be kept year after year with a little care but I know few people who bother and it’s a good excuse for a shopping trip to the local Nursery.
Berries are the bees knees of the winter garden and a deserved Christmas feast for our garden friends - the birds. Apparently surveys report that birds will go for the red ones first, then orange, then yellow and white - if you feel inclined to sit and record that do let me know - but personally I’d go for choice of which plants you love. My two favourites are Cotoneaster (pronounced co-tone-ee-ass-tur not cotton-easter…) and Pyracantha.
Cotoneaster is great as an evergreen, can be pruned to make funky shapes and is smothered in red berries from autumn onwards. We have trees planted in the communal slopes behind our home in Bristol and they practically radiate in low light.
Pyracantha, aptly known as Firethorn, make a fiercely prickly hedge, great for deterring *burglars, neighbours, family (*delete as needed) and come with a choice of red, orange or yellow berries so take your pick, with gloves on!
* 4 - Plant bare root roses *
Digging the soil will keep you warm, you’ll be rewarded by gorgeous blooms next year and save a packet on buying them as bare root plants 🌹🥀
There are so many options for roses in your garden- scrambling up trees, small bushes in pots or borders, creating a hedge or attached to walls and fences. I’m personally a huge fan of tough, hip-bearing Rosa Rugosa which can be grown as a hedge or as single plants and flowers its socks off, but then provides big glowing red hips for the birds and for making rosehip jelly if you fancy!
Rose catalogues will have been dropping through your letterbox for months, or find them in every magazine but do have a look at the rose company websites as it’s quite mesmerising - pick a colour and off you go; a treasure trove of Christmas candy colours.
* 5 - Prune 3 of the most common plants - birch, acer, vines - before Xmas *
Many of us have these plants in our gardens, on balconies and in courtyards - they only need pruning for shape and to keep healthy and within bounds but do so before the merry day or they will ‘bleed’ poor things! 😱😿
The silver birch tree is one of the most commonly bought trees and beloved for its glowing white winter bark. If you have one of these you can enhance its goblet shape with some gentle pruning of branches and this needs to be done now so that your new friend doesn’t ‘bleed’ sap. This wont necessarily kill it but can be ugly and weaken it.
Acers are another commonly bought plant for their autumn colour and are brilliant for small gardens or even balconies as they can, with some care, be grown in a pot. The same with Grape vines, who prefer to be in the ground, as do all plants, but I’ve even some these growing in pots on houseboats on Bristol harbourside!
The sap in these plants rises earlier than most other plants. It delivers water and sugar to new leaf buds as they swell as the prepare for spring and if cut too late in the year will ooze out so treat these plants with festive love and only prune dead/diseased/crossing branches before you crack open the mince pies and all will be well.
MERRY CHRISTMAS x