Winter gardening – I love it; whilst there is much to do, there is time to do it whilst not in a headlong gallop to keep pace with nature’s abundant enthusiasm. There is time to pause and savour the crisp light, the dying embers of colour clinging onto the shrubs and trees, the glistening berries, the robin inquisitively looking at the mulch pile with you.
What am I doing? I am largely putting plants to bed although I am still planting tulips in ground freed up by the removal of dahlias, planting some new trees, adding to the leaf pile, doing some lawn repair and weeding and mulching beds on those days when the soil is warm enough. I am really not cutting back very much yet – I love the frost on the leaves of perennials still standing and they must provide wonderful shelter for all manner of small creatures.
But my main concern is wrapping plants that are marginally tender or that will suffer from biting wind (so much more damaging than snow) using fleece, bubble wrap, the boughs of some cut yew, hessian, whatever is at hand. Pots that remain outside will all be raised off the ground (I use bricks where I do not have pottery ‘feet’) and be moved against a house wall and/or wrapped. I am giving particular attention to evergreens in containers (things like standard bays and young cordylines) wrapping fleece around their root ball and covering the soil surface with straw, bracken, strulch, grit or deep compost (the top part of the plant will be fine).
Agapanthus in pots will appreciate the same treatment if they cannot be brought inside. Acers in pots I will move into the garage as, being deciduous, they do not need light whilst they are dormant (but I will check from time to time that the soil remains very slightly moist). Those plants which I know hate winter sogginess I will mulch with extra grit including some hardy salvias that will stay out over winter and ‘alpines’ such as edelweiss and lewisia both of which grow in what I fondly call ‘the rockery’.
Of course, there are other things to do – like cutting off this year’s hellebore leaves, pruning roses against wind rock, pruning birch, vines, laburnum and sophora – there are probably others – around the new year and before their sap has started to rise … but the main thing now is to put those that need to go to bed, to bed – rather like children, some can stay up a little later.
Griselda Kerr, The Dower House, Melbourne.