December in your garden

Happy Christmas and best wishes from everyone here at Gardeneer.

Here are a few garden hints and tips. There are plenty of things to do in December despite the difficulties we are experiencing with lockdowns. We will all recognise the plants associated with Christmas but here are some plants for December and garden hints.

Mistletoe

This Christmas  plant is associated with romantic gestures. Although mistletoe is often scarce and expensive, it adds a bit of interest to the decorations. The plant itself is dioecious, which means the berries carry either a male or a female seed. So, if you are thinking of growing your own for another year you need to collect several berries in March as they ripen, so you hopefully get seeds of both sexes. Then rub the “plant” seeds in the bark or a fork of a willow, apple or oak tree.

 Poinsettia

This house plant is best kept in a draft free room in a light position, They do not like to dry out, so keep the compost moist, tip away any excess water away about 15 minutes after after watering. The trick to get them flowering at Christmas is to restrict them to no more than 10 hours and no more. This what triggers them into producing bright red bracts. Left on their own, they would flower in the Autumn, but by controlling the light they will “flower” at Christmas.                                                                        

Sarcococca hookeriana humulis

Sarcoccocca or Christmas box or Sweet Box is a small evergreen scented plant, reliably flowers around Christmas producing a profusion of sweetly scented white flowers from November to May. This is great in any border or planted in tubs either side of your front door to welcome visitors with their winter scent.

Helleborus niger

The “Christmas Rose” is another seasonal favourite, it has rich dark green leaves which are a great for setting off the nodding white blooms. Christmas Roses look great when planted in drifts or under trees as they are shade tolerant.

Holly

Hollies have male or female varieties and only the female varieties will carry berry. Ilex x altaclerensis “Golden King” despite its name is female! Ilex aquafolium “Golden Queen” is male, so carries no berries.  Luckily there is a hermaphrodite solution of Ilex aquafolium “Golden Van Tol”. A more unusual coloured Holly is Ilex x meserveae “Blue Angel” which has dark green foliage with a purplish hint as it goes into the winter. The combination of the dark foliage with brilliant red berries stunning.

December jobs in the garden

  • Beds and borders
  • Dig over by the New Year so that there is plenty of time for the soil to be weathered by the wind, rain and frost.
  • Garden furniture
  • Clean thoroughly and put away. Some quality hardwood furniture benefits from an annual oiling with linseed oil.
  • Check for damage
  • Check all wooden structures such as fences, pergolas and trellis and make any necessary repairs. Where appropriate apply a preservative.
  • Lawncare in the winter
  • Ensure that the lawn is kept free of wind blown fallen leaves to maintain light to the grass and prevent disease
  • Winter lawn care is best restricted to – Aerate, tine or spike the lawn to let the rain and air get to the soil and promote root growth
  • Frost heave
  • After a sharp frost check all recently planted shrubs, perennials and spring bedding plants for frost heave. This is the lifting of the soil around the plants. When this happens await the thaw and firm the plants back
  • Compost.
  • Collect remaining organic matter and add to the compost heap.
  • Birds
  • Put out bird seed and fat balls to feed birds through the winter and if the weather is freezing, ensure they have water to drink.
  • Root rot
  • Stop root rot by placing pots in the rain shadow of a wall or fence and lift them off the ground on pot feet or large stones to let the moisture drain out.

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