December

 

Brrr….I’m awaiting Santa to get some thermal delights but the weather seems to have beaten him here, dag nam it!  I’m still out and about facing the frost with my seasonal tourettes.  To be honest I do manage to curb my weather related moaning as I am bouyed up by the excitement of the advent calendar in the morning and propelled forever forward with the promise of a mulled wine at the weekend. Another hearty soul who is out there having the best time with not a grumble on his lips is Sam, who you might know as he worked with me for quite a while. He is our local arborist with a brand new business all of his very own.  Sam is a wonderful tree surgeon who I can’t recommend enough so please look him up at Lemur Trees if you need any tree work doing.  So with the focus on trees and on my quest to procure seasonal delights – why don’t we deck the halls with boughs of holly?  Well grab your secateurs and whilst we are out there please read the seasonal jobs bit and let me tempt you to get wrapped up and get busy in your garden this month. I had a request to give you some info about putting in a hedge, so below you will find just how, why, and where to do this.  Then finally, if you are like me and have all your Christmas shopping to do during this lovely month of December – and you aren’t a bit over organised and have finished it and keep telling me that it is all wrapped, labelled and that you started months ago and you don’t know why everyone doesn’t – I’m not telling you again – that is freaky, there is no festive cheer to be had in August and stop telling me because I’m worrying now when I should be enjoying egg nog and getting all excited!!  – any way if you are, like me,  looking to mix in a bit of outside loveliness with your purchases then please let me steer you to a few outdoor treats in my ‘days out’ bit.

Seasonal Jobs

Don’t creep up on me this month as I am usually brandishing a can of WD40 and I am tempted to use it liberally and not always appropriately. If you wish to join me this month in generously oiling everything then you could also do some of these jobs while you’re out and about spraying hinges and padlocks:

  • The apple and pear trees have finally dropped their leaves and now is a good time to prune them. Nothing too harsh, just cut out dead, diseased and crossing or rubbing branches.
  • While you’re working on the fruit trees knock off all the mummified fruit and make sure you clear them from under your trees.
  • Insulate and disconnect outside taps.
  • If you have plants that are in the wrong place or have outgrown their spot in the garden then this is a wonderful month to move them around. Get in touch if you need a hand.
  • Dig in farmyard manure or mushroom compost.
  • Prune your roses to prevent wind damage. If you have a “How do I do that then!” moment please email me for tips.
  • If you planted your sweet peas then pinch out the tops of the seedlings before they get longer than 8cm. Plant some if you haven’t yet!
  • Keep on top of raking up leaves. Especially off the lawn.
  • Pigeons get peckish over winter so make sure you put netting over your crops to protect them…..
  • ….don’t forget to feed the birds – I know what I’ve just said- but there is more to life than consistency!
  • If you grow things from seed, then it’s a good time to start saving fruit punnets to sow your seeds in next year.
  • I’m trying my best not to think too much about rhubarb as mine isn’t looking the healthiest! But now is good time to pop a bucket over it and get forcing for sweeter and earlier stems.
  • If you have a birch, acer or vine that needs pruning do it this month and before Christmas. These trees all ‘bleed’ lots so the tree is now dormant enough for you to work on it.
  • Coppice trees and shrubs that need that – such as your hazel.
  • Check your paths and steps and clean the moss and lichen from them. Keep them free from leaves and weeds as at this time of year when it is dark and wet you really can come a cropper.
  • Any time from now until February you can prune Jackmanii and Viticella types of Clematis. Either cut them right back to 30cm or if you are training your clematis to be larger then leave the frame work and cut back the side shoots to one joint.
  • If you haven’t already, then there is still time to get your garden ready for frost. So wrap up your tender plants. Please contact me if you need any advice and help.
  • If you are a lifter and not a wrapper, then take up your Dahlia Tubers and plonk them in vermiculite for the winter months.
  • Some Acer’s have been badly effected this year by wind burn. If your tree is in a pot and suffered then look for a more sheltered position to move it too.
  • It is really important to welcome yourself home during the darker months. So pep up your pots with some new plants for winter and in readiness for guests at your door over Christmas!
  • Start taking hardwood cuttings, if you are inclined to do so.
  • For any advice or help then please get in touch.

Mind The Hedge

Cheaper than you think and so lovely to behold. The right hedge for your boundary can provide you with a haven for wildlife, a crisp and elegant finish to your garden and even some fruit for your tummy. Knock down the wall, rip down your fence and let’s plant something worthwhile:

Hedging your bets So how to choose your hedge? The first question should always be – how close is it going to be to your home or other buildings? If the answer is close then you need to think about root runs and make sure you don’t create a nightmare of subsidence. Lower less rigorous plants such as box, lavender and cotoneaster can be planted without any concern. Larger hedging will need to be kept in check. Please get in touch if you need any advise. Then decide why you are growing it – is it for a year round green delight, or as a deterrent to rascals, or for a way to entice birds in! If you are drawn to a walkway of beautiful roses then have a think about how often you are going to walk past it lugging bags of groceries or meandering around after a festive evening out, heady in seasonal cheer and lacking in sobriety, can you plant far enough apart to stop a nasty snag? Please never set yourself up to fail, look to see if you are in full shade, full sun and know your soil, it would be a waste of time and money to plant lots of acid loving Rhododendron’s in an alkaline soil. So let’s get choosing….

Yew and yours?  For a formal hedge then you can’t beat Taxus baccata (Yew). It is glorious, grand, luxuriant and regal but bear in mind it is a slow grower and also has incredibly poisonous berries (aril’s for you horticultural lot who will shriek an email my way!!). I know lots of useless things about Yew, so if you wish to be bored about virgins and graveyards let me know….moving swiftly on. Other conifers such as Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson’s Cypress) and Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) make great formal hedges. If you want leaves all year round but I can’t tempt you with a conifer then look to the evergreens and Ilex x altaclerensis (Holly ‘Golden King’), Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C Van tol’ (Holly ‘J C Van tol’) and Prunus lusitanica (Portugal Laurel). For a couple of deciduous hedges that hold their leaves through the winter then Carpinus betulus (hornbeam) and Fagus sylvatica (beech) are worth looking at. For an ankle biting, low formal hedge plant Buxus (Box) or Lonicera nitida (shrub honeysuckle) or Ilex crenata (Japanese holly) are perfect. I need to add in Ligustrum ovalifolium (Privet) as we all recognise and often aspire to a good old privet hedge, be careful if you are a hayfever sufferer as it is the first nose tickler in the spring and has a full on allergic temperament. Oh one last thing – don’t mix and match if you want that formal feel, be bold and get one type and run with it.

Informal  I am much more jazz than marching bands so feel far more at home with informal hedges. I grew up in a garden with a huge Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn) so immediately think of this as a natural choice for hedging and it has great flowers and berries and crumply edged leaves which, in spring, as they unfurl they are quite tasty and can be chucked in a salad or a sandwich for this reason they used to be known as ‘bread and cheese’ by children of a yester year. Also deciduous but ideal for an informal hedge are Acer campestre (field maple), Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn), and Prunus spinosa (blackthorn). Less native but just as appealing there is Forsythia, Fuchsia magellanica and Rosa rugosa. For an evergreen option then look to Ilex aquifolium (holly), Escallonia, Pyracantha (Firethorn), Berberis x stenophylla (hedge Barberry) and Lavandula (Lavender). Do be careful with a Lavender hedge as bees adorn every inch of it in summer so if you have small children this might not be the best choice.

View from the hedge – When to plant them?  Now! October until March would be ideal for a deciduous hedge. Evergreens like to be planted in spring or autumn. If you are going for a Fuchsia hedge then we will need to be planted out in early summer. I know but if you know what you’re going for then that little bit of information won’t be as pointless as it first seems….

View through the hedge – How many to plant?  You need 6-8 plants for every metre, then plant them in a double, staggered row. This will make a thick, predator proof and wildlife friendly hedge. So many hedges I see are sparse and and gappy and it is a sad sight! For a formal hedge or a dwarf hedge, parterres and knot gardens space your plants 10-15cm apart. If you can’t be arsed with any of this then have a look at Instahedge and all the work has been done for you. Or get in touch and I’ll give you a hand.

Bono and the hedge!  Ok I’ve run out of steam on the pun front – I want to talk about how to plant it and aftercare!! You need to layout your hedge. We’re planning on only doing this once so don’t be too gung ho! Use a guideline and be extra careful if you are next to a neat pathway. If your plants came in pots then give them a good soaking before planting. Dig your hole so that once planted the plant is at the same depth it was in the pot- this is called the nursery line (if you have bare rooted plants you will be able to see the soil mark). Dig a nice wide hole, if you are doing a straight forward row then dig out a trench, loosen the earth at the bottom, if very heavy soil like our local clay then add a layer of compost. Pop in a bit of fertiliser, not too much, I prefer to use mycorrhizal fungi. Then in goes your tree, splay the roots out and check it’s not wonky, at the right depth and in line with it’s fellow hedging plants. Once happy then back fill with the original soil and also some compost and firm in. Hurrah it is in – so then you give it a good water and then mulch. The mulch will keep it weed free and also retain some of the water. You will need to keep an eye on your new hedge and water regularly. ….I’ve just thought of ’till it like it is’….does that work?

Thin edge of the hedge! Where to buy and what to spendI would always start by visiting the woodland trust website, Have a look at Wiggly Wigglers for a wonderful selection and excellent prices. For high colour or high grass then you need to check out victoriana nursery gardens. once you get a feel for it then you can hone in on the hedge of your dreams and go off on a search of your own. I would always recommend a bit of patience when getting a hedge to establish, start small, plant well, tend and enjoy. But for the few impatient souls out there that want instant impact and have a very deep pocket then let me guide you to InstaHedge – oh and if you do use them please let me come and watch!If you want any advise or want some help please email me.

Days Out

The Horniman Garden is one of my favourite local gardens, and they are having a Christmas Fayre every weekend in December at the Horniman and there is always the garden to escape to how perfect.

We always make sure we pop upto Richmond Park in December to see the deer and on a Sunday at 11 am there is a free tour of Isabella Plantation.  What a brilliant thing to do, and not a bit of shopping in sight…..

If you do want a bit of shopping with your horticulture then look no further than Kew.  They have a carousel and a Santa’s grotto but also a whole storytelling and discovery about Christmas plants.