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Flower Power: Work in the garden comes to a halt in December

This November’s weather was true to form – mostly overcast, misty with rain. Colder temperatures usually arrive at the beginning of December; then rise mid month bringing mild and wet conditions, writes Jackie Power…

However, weather patterns are more unpredictable and so it will be interesting to see what develops through the month.

Most work in the garden comes to a halt during December (as thoughts turn to the Festive Season). Clean and check tools before storing; keep the rake handy for clearing leaves.

Deciduous trees are pruned during the autumn and winter months (except Maple, Birch and Cherry which ‘bleed’ extensively from cuts; pruning can be done in summer after new growth has matured). Major tree work should always be done by a qualified and insured tree surgeon. This is highly skilled work and potentially dangerous requiring the use of chainsaws, protective clothing, ladders and harnesses. It is also better for the long-term health of the tree to prune correctly.

As daylight hours decrease in the run up to the Winter solstice (21st December) and with low cloud sometimes lasting all day – add some cheery flowering plants to window boxes and containers. Choose heathers (Erica carnea alba ‘Snow Queen’) and blue violas or Pansies (Viola wittrockiana ‘Joker’ light blue) placed close together for effect. Or go for dwarf conifers, winter cherry and ivies; there are lots of varieties with different leaf shapes and colours – silvery green, dark green with splashes of yellow. Trailing Rosemary ‘Prostratus’ is very successful grown in window boxes and can be a permanent resident for many years. Flowering bulbs can also be squeezed in between the evergreens.

There are two fragrant flowering shrubs to look out for in December – Mahonia (which seems to occupy every open space) it has an upright habit, Holly like leaves and long spikes covered in yellow blooms. Also, Christmas box (Sarcococca); it starts producing tiny perfumed flowers by mid month; followed by blue-black berries.

And finally, a suggestion for two books – both useful for city dwelling gardeners; ‘Success with Small-Space Gardening’ by Graham Clarke. It demonstrates how to create a green oasis in a shady courtyard, on a windy balcony or sunny patio. Another on a similar theme is – The Balcony Gardener: Creative ideas for small spaces by Isabelle Palmer.

Season’s Greetings!


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