Happy New Year everyone and lets hope for a good gardening year. The weather at the end of 2015 was very wet at times, and if it then becomes very cold and the ground freezes for any length of time it can damage roots. A good layer of mulch around the base of the plant will help to protect from damage. If we have snow, brush it off low hanging branches and shrubs before they can snap. Hopefully we won’t get any! After the high winds we have had, check stakes, ties and fleece and other supports. If you have a pond, especially with fish in it, float something like a ball on surface so that it can’t freeze over totally as this will starve the fish of oxygen.
If you have a greenhouse, open the doors a little so that damp air doesn’t build up and cause botrytis (grey mould) on plants. Check stored Dahlia and Canna tubers for any signs of rot. Also check stored Begonia corms where vine weevil bugs can lurk and eat them away.
If primulas and polyanthus suddenly collapse it is almost certainly the fault of these little horrors who will have eaten the roots. it happened on one of the planters in Broadstone. I have watered it with Provado Vine Weevil killer and will repeat it, because otherwise they will eat the roots of the Begonias which we use in the summer. If you haven’t already sown sweet peas in October, sow them now and they will still be ready for planting in late spring. Cut off the leaves of Hellebores now so that you can see the flowers as they emerge. You can also begin to cut back grasses and perennials which have been left for winter interest. Continue to plant deciduous hedging and trees.
If you like early Rhubarb, now is the time to cover some with either a purpose made forcer or an old bucket or dustbin, packed with straw. Autumn fruiting raspberries need pruning now. Cut the canes down to ground level, it may seem drastic but as soon as the weather warms up, they will start to send up new growth. Later in the month if the weather isn’t too bad, start to prune large flowering clematis. Cut back to a large fat bud, but if it is scrambling through a tree or shrub a lighter prune and tidy up may be sufficient.
If your lawn is very wet try to stay off it also if it is frosty. If you cross it regularly to reach a shed or greenhouse it is a good idea to put stepping stones across it.
If we get a nice sunny day why not visit a winter garden. Upton House has a small area planted with early flowering shrubs and hellebores as well as a lovely camellia walk. Further afield Hilliers near Romsey also has a winter garden and don’t forget Kingston Lacy’s snowdrops next month.