I must admit, I am a bit of a fair weather gardener. At this time of year there's chat about the virtue of digging over the plot on a crisp winter day, but I confess it's not 100% appealing to me. I do garden in poor weather, but not happily so. I don't much like the rain dripping down my face and frozen hands. Still, given the mess out there, I did venture out to try and clear some of the summer debris not least on the veg plot which was still supporting spectres of Broad beans, (disgraceful!)
I soon warmed up tackling both debris and weeds, of which there was plenty. Fortunately Santa brought me this Grubber which is a good bit of kit, image below left. I don't recommend much equipment on this web site as everyone has different tastes, but it's hard not to like this Grubber ( check out the web site if you are interested http://tiny.cc/eln28w ) if you are ferreting out the weeds and raking over the soil. It seems well made, and has a good weight; I found it was even sturdy enough to use as a prop in one hand when reaching across a border with the other........ although don't try that at home in your garden, as clearly not what it was designed for. Anyone flat on their face in soil has only their own folly to blame not me.
Interesting getting close up to the borders to see how much life and growth there is at ground level, albeit encouraged by the mild winter, the perennials are on the move. Not surprising as perennials will, all being well and providing they are hardy, come back year after year. Buying plants is expensive, and so picking a plant which is fully hardy in your garden is important. Recently, in 2013, the RHS revised the hardy rating system and for more information about this follow the link RHS hardy rating system
In the image below right you can make out the new tiny shoots of Alchemilla (Lady's mantle) just starting to come through. Alchemilla is a lovely, late spring/ early summer flowering perennial which mixes well with many plants. It's fresh foliage in the spring is a frothy green and Alchemilla is easy to grow.
But don't worry if you are looking at some part in the garden and there are no shoots, just bare earth, but you do remember a plant there last year. You are probably looking at the gap of a herbaceous perennial, which is different, as herbaceous plants die back totally in the winter leaving bare earth until the spring when they regrow. Examples of herbaceous perennials are Peony and Hosta. The growth above soil all dies back but the plant survives under ground for the next spring. Many herbaceous plants are among the most showy of the summer flowering plants such as Delphinium and make great border plants. I am not trouble by bare earth in the winter providing it's not full of weeds.