David Lindo, aka The Urban Birder, with one of his favourite plants

In The Garden: January/February

17th January 2014

January takes its name from Janus ­– the god of beginnings and transitions, who is usually depicted as having two faces since he looks to the future and to the past. This month is a great opportunity for gardeners to do the same – look forward to the new gardening year, but also look back to see what worked and what didn’t in the last twelve months… If you didn’t have a formal garden plan last year, consider writing one up, and annotating it as the seasons go by: it’s a useful record and a great starting point each New Year…

Top Tips For January From The RHS…

Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days • Dig over vacant plots if not dug already • Repair and re-shape lawn edges • Inspect stored tubers (Dahlia, Begonia, Canna) for rot or drying out • Prune apple and pear trees • Start forcing your rhubarb • Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season • Keep putting out food and water for hungry birds • Make sure all garden tools are sharpened and mowers serviced • Keep checking the need to protect the garden from frosts, winds and heavy rain • Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage and consider moving plants to sunnier positions to maximise light

January Plant Of The Month: Hellebore

“Flowering Hellebores make you wonder at the beauty and resilience of nature as they open stunning flowers in the depth of winter” says urban horticulturalist David Domoney. “The diversity of the colour and blooms together with an integrated shaped emerald green foliage across many varieties make this a perfect first choice for the start of the calendar year.”

There are c20 species of herbaceous, evergreen, perennial flowering Hellebore plants, with the most popular for garden use undoubtedly H. Orientalis and their colourful hybrids. They’re excellent for bringing early colour to shady borders and areas between shrubs and under trees. Plant in heavy, rich, limey soil that won’t dry out in summer months.

Colours range from pure white through to deep purple/black, all shades of pink, cream, primrose-yellow, and pinkish red.

Top Tips For February From The RHS…

• Start with some general TLC, including an assessment of any site-specific winter damage • Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover • Chit your potato tubers • Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches • Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off • Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering • Divide bulbs such as snowdrops; plant any that need to be planted ‘in the green’ • Prune Wisteria • Prune hardy evergreen hedges; renovate overgrown deciduous hedges • Prune conservatory climbers • Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter

February Plant Of The Month: Heather

A great garden plant this month, bringing much needed colour, is Heather with over four thousand varieties to choose from.

“Heather is a fantastic plant” says David Lindo aka The Urban Birder (broadcaster, writer, talker, bird guider). “It brings glorious pink and purples to a garden, brightening up any bed, border or pot and it’s such a versatile plant with different varieties blooming in both winter and summer. [And it’s] an invaluable food source for wildlife throughout the year with bees attracted to its nectar and smaller creatures taking refuge in the dense close foliage.”

Great for ground cover, Heathers are very hardy, evergreen and they need little maintenance so they’re ideal for the novice gardener. Best in beds totally devoted to themselves with plenty of drainage, not under trees, and in a sunny, south facing position, they are also good as path liners, rockery plants and in pots.

Gardening advice provided by the RHS & National Garden Gift Vouchers, which can be bought/redeemed at over 2,000 outlets in the UK.

Visit www.thevouchergarden.co.uk for details of outlets that sell and accept them, and to buy online, or call 0870 2408237 for more info.

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