Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

The Avant Gardener

If, like me, you are an outdoorsy sort, then you will be itching to get gardening. Traditionally plots were cut back and put to bed in winter, with the exception of pruning tasks. The warmth of the potting shed beckoned for repairs, or browsing seed catalogues. Planning ahead, reflection and forethought are good but there are still jobs to do. Much is still flowering now in fact.

Milder temperatures and an extended growing season, on average, 29 days per year over the last decade, mean lawns may still need the occasional cut. Keep an eye on watering too as containers can dry out. If frost is forecast then fleece anything tender – net curtains are great for this. Ventilate greenhouses overwintering plants where possible to keep grey mould at bay. Root cuttings are successful if taken from perennials now or try hardwood cuttings from shrubs. As long as the soil is not frozen or wet you can also plant – be careful not to cause compaction. Bareroot and rootball plants are in season and will cost a fraction of the price of potted.

If you don’t have enough all important, evergreen structure, it will be very apparent through your picturesque bifold doors – a bare plot doesn’t lift spirits. Great choices for adding more framework include Skimmia ‘Reevesiana’, with a long season of cardinal berries in autumn through spring. For a sunny porch try Camellia vernalis ‘Yuletide’, flowering between November and January. Opt for scented evergreen Sarcococca hookeriana var. hookeriana 'Ghorepani' for tough, dry shade.

Winter flowering clematis need space, but require minimal pruning. C. armandii and C. cirrhosa are popular fragrant evergreens. Positioned at the back of a border and concealed with mid-height evergreens in front. C. napaulensis needs careful siting as it loses foliage in summer, but more than makes up for it with cream flowers with prominent purple tassels brightening the greyest of winter days. Viburnum farreri 'Nanum' blooms from October to February, and Daphne bholua 'Spring Herald' christens the New Year. Both are deciduous, highly scented and ideal for smaller spaces.

Leave some perennials untouched until spring. Acanthus, achilleas, phlomis and sedums complement warm season grasses miscanthus and calamagrostis and all benefit wildlife. Shear everything back as new growth emerges.

For more inspirational winter planting ideas pay a visit to RHS Wisley or Savill Gardens (free entry in December) and then get planning your garden at home.

Article first published in The Resident Magazine - Winter 2017 edition
Posted: 05/12/2017 11:23:27 by Pamela Barden