The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. Achillea in winter 310 aster in winter


    We are almost at the shortest day; it is definitely winter, but the garden is alive. It is surprising how much is growing in the garden and not just the spring bulbs which are well ahead of themselves. The images above are on the left Achillea and on the right Aster.  Both are summer flowering perennials which I have been cutting back, one of the winter garden jobs. At the base you can see the plant's new growth which will be next years flowering plant. 

    I am in the midst of the winter clear up, a job which often takes place over much of the winter on milder days. Once the perennials have been cut back the weeds are much easier to spot and there are plenty to weed out. I also remove leaves which accumulate in the borders. That may seem counter- intuitive, as leaf mulch is good for the borders, but that is the well rotted down variety not the newly blown leaves which are slimly and can harbour disease. 

    December is a quiet time in the garden, there are no pressing jobs. It is nice to get out on the few mild days and clear up leaves and winter debris. By weeding over the winter I try to start the spring relatively weed free, a battle surrendered by late summer.  

    This image below is, in some ways, not a Hosta. By which I mean this is where a really large Hosta grew in the summer. Unlike Achillea and Aster, Hostas die back completely in the winter leaving no trace behind. There will be no fresh shoots from the Hosta until spring next year.

    If a plant label states it is a ' Herbaceous Perennial' you can expect it to die back completely in the late autumn and over winter, leaving you with bare earth sometimes until quite late in the year. The image on the right is of a Hosta emerging, and was taken  in early May, so you can expect bare earth for quite a few months.


    hosta in winter310 hosta emerging new growth in early may



    Winter in the Veg Plot

    Winter in the veg plot is not just about Winter cabbages and Brassicas, although they are good to grow, Winter is also lettuce time. I have had lettuce growing in the veg plot all summer, autumn and into the winter.  We may often eat Tomatoes and Lettuce together, but there are very different plants Tomatoes are very tender and only viable during the summer.

    In the two images below, on the left is Autumn lettuce and Rocket which has been consumed,  picking off those plants growing outside the cloche. Lettuce will withstand a degree of frost which meant throughout November, despite frosts, the lettuces outside the cloche were unaffected. Anticipating more severe winter weather, some summer sown lettuces and winter lettuces have been planted under the cloche.  Lettuce is much more hardy than it may appear, and there are plenty of winter lettuces to pick and grow. How to grow Winter Lettuce.

    Autumn lettuces winter lettuce



  2. Tulip and Skimmia


    This is a lovely spring combination, pink and yellow tulips planted alongside a Skimma which makes a long flowering display, with the added benefit of being easy to grow.

    To create this display you will need a large container filled with compost. The stunning pink Tulip is Tulip 'Angelique'  and the Skimmia is japonica 'Rubella'  both of which are available from on line garden retailers. The Skimmia has red buds early in the season  in the winter, ideal for a festive display, which  later open to pale white flowers in spring  to coincide with the flowering of the Tulips. 

     The Tulips need planting in November/early December at the latest. They should be planted lower down in the container at least 3x the depth of the bulbs. It is best to buy a small Skimmia so it is in proportion to the Tulips. 

    As the Skimmia starts off with red berries, you can plant it in a festive style and add red and white cyclamen, or the lovely  Hellebore Christmas Carol for the Christmas season, and then  let the Tulips come through for the spring. 

    After the spring bedding display is over you can plant the Skimmia in the garden to continue enjoying it for many years. It is a slow growing shrub, reaching  around 1.5m over 10-20 years. Skimmia is tolerant of partial shade although it will flower best, and is most suited to a spot which is not too exposed.  It is not fussy  and will grow in almost any soil, except that which is waterlogged. As an evergreen shrub it makes a good addition in the garden border, the flowers are fragrant and it is hardy down to -5. 


  3. A little Book of Garden Wisdom
    Calling all gardeners out there  here is a free book!
    " A little Bit of Garden Wisdom"
    I find by this time of year I am doing more reading about gardening, than actual gardening, especially on cold and wet days.
    This is a little free book, as it says, of Garden Wisdom from Thompson and Morgan and you can read it on screen, or download it. It is small but packed full of ideas and tips (including one from the Sunday Gardener,) from 60 garden bloggers with their best garden advice.


  4. The brightly coloured spring flowers of Erysimum cheiri Cheiranthus also kno subtle shades of Erysimum

     One of the things I like about gardening is looking forward to the next season, the next year. As we slide into autumn, it is the time when plants and spring bulbs are being chosen for next year's display. Wall flowers, latin name Erysimum really pack a punch and have to be one of the sweetest scented flowers in the garden, up there with Lilies and Roses. Wall flowers are easy to grow, requiring a sunny spot and well drained soil. Wall flowers are spring-flowering and look great with the spring flowering bulbs. It is easy to imagine the bright red Wallflower illustrated left, which is E. cheiri Cheiranthus with some bold Orange Tulips and left the subtle shades with blues of Hyacinth or pale pink Tulips.

    September is an ideal time to plant Wallflowers which can be bought as smaller plants for growing on over the Autumn to spring and so more cheaply than the fully grown plants next spring. Be sure to check which variety to buy; the biennial types have scent, the perennial variety which is usually Bowles's Mauve does not. More tips on growing Wallflowers.