Gardening Tips - Give yourself and your garden a winter workout

Birch in winter

Birch in winter - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Shake off the winter blues tackling jobs in the garden says Anthony Bradley, garden supervisor at Brodsworth Hall

There’s a reason that Brussel sprouts and parsnips are a staple of any traditional Christmas dinner and if you have planted wisely earlier in the year, then you will be harvesting your last crop of winter vegetables just before the festive season. Leeks, winter cabbage, they are all coming to an end now and will be perfect for the Christmas table. And we particularly love this time of year at Brodsworth for some of the striking colours and shapes stripped back gardens can create, once the leaves have dropped. Dogwood, or ‘winter flame’ is particularly dramatic with its long red spiny fingers, or contrastingly birch trees come into their own with their silky looking trunks, most elegant and beautiful when it snows.

If you want to create more plants and coverage in your garden, then the most cost effective way of doing this is propagating the ones you already have, and December is still a good time to take hardwood cuttings. Specific species for this include such shrubs as Deutzia, Aucuba, Kerria and Weigela. You need to take a length of stem approximately 12 inches long and half an inch thick and make a sloping cut above the bud and a straight cut below the bud – clear all but the top leaves on evergreens. Then create a narrow trench about eight inches deep using a spade and mix sand and peat into the bottom. Dip the flat end of the cutting into a hormone rooting powder, which can be found at any garden centre, and place the cutting into the trench, leaving a third above soil level. Firmly close the trench with your heel and water in. You can put three or four in the trench at the same time.

In 12 months time you will be able to lift and transport them to the part of the garden that needs extra cover.

Alpines that are silver coloured or cushion shaped will require protection from the rain. If they get too much wet on them, then they can rot from the inside. You can cover them with an anchored piece of clear plastic, or in some cases, we use mini cloches, bell shaped glass or plastic covers, which allow maximum light and protection without restricting air flow.

They also make the garden look decorated and pretty. Animals looking for food at this time of year might also turn to your smaller plants for the nutrient rich roots, and for key plants, you might want to make a small covering box out of close mesh chicken wire.

It stops the birds from pecking and the rabbits from digging around plants such as your Aubretias, Sedum and Dianthus.

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Winter flowering shrubs will be in full bloom. They normally start flowering from late November until February and we are planning to plant witch hazel - Hamamelis Mollis and Wintersweet - Chimonanthus Praecox at Brodsworth for their pretty colours.

This is a good time to repair any turf edges, particularly during the milder winter days.

Turf edges can easily spoil or collapse and it’s easy to give them a revitalising lift and a crisp new edge by carving out the damaged section, six inches larger than the affected area, and turning it round so that the cut edge now faces outwards.

Any damage will then be surrounded by grass and can be levelled with soil ready for seeding in spring. Just like new.

Jobs for December

- Knock any heavy snow off shrubs and hedges as the additional weight will collapse or even snap stems.

- Machine maintenance – get yourself in the warmth and give your tools some TLC, sharpening hand tools and giving them a light oil to keep them rust free.

- Prune open-grown apples and pears so that they will produce fruit again next year.

- Don’t be too quick to clear old/dead growth as it can provide much needed protection from the frost.

- Trees such as Birch or Acer can now be safely pruned without the risk of bleeding or leaking sap and the risk of infection is minimised.

- Start thinking about next year and planning for the colours and plants you want to see in your garden.

Top tip

Make sure that the heater is working in the greenhouse and reduce the watering of your houseplants.

Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their Victorian splendour.

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens




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