In The Garden: December

18th November 2011

Garden Colour At Christmas

Tips for this month's gardening from National Garden Gift Vouchers

Much can be done outdoors in the garden during December providing the weather is good, but it’s also time to think about ‘real’ plants for Christmas. There are loads of winter flowering and evergreen plants to choose from, all now available at your local garden centre or nursery, and which can fit in with any scheme you may be planning.

The most obvious real plant to have at the festive period is a Christmas tree such as a Scots pine, with its traditional dark green bushy appeal, or a Noble fir, with its thick, soft, blue-green needles. Both have excellent needle retention and are very fragrant. You could also introduce some colour with poinsettias, cyclamen, african violets, chrysanthemums and azaleas.

The key to being successful with these indoor plants is to ensure that they never dry out (their very fine root systems must always be moist) and that they are positioned where there is adequate light, no droughts and no exposure to excessive radiator heat.

Colour in the garden can also be achieved with a stunning Cornus (Siberian Dogwood) which has bright red bark. Cornus alba Sibirica has been given an Award of Garden Merit, which is for plants of outstanding excellence. It is also PlantforLife’s plant of the month for December. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils, but the soil must never dry out, and it will also thrive in the wetter parts of the garden. This dogwood produces the brightest winter bark when planted in full sun. To keep the size of the plant in check and to encourage the most colourful bark, remove up to a third of the stems back to ground level each March and encourage new shoots. This process can then be repeated for many years.

Top tips for indoors and out include moving houseplants off windowsills at night to protect them from the cold, and moving terracotta containers in your garden into a store room to help prevent cracking in the freezing temperatures. If you get hit by snow remember to help your plants and shrubs as best you can by brushing off the settled snow, which helps to prevent branches breaking under the weight.

You should also think about cutting back the overhanging and lanky branches of trees and shrubs; keep a careful eye on trellis and fences that are supporting plants, to ensure they are not damaged by the weather; and carry out winter pruning of any fruit trees.
It’s not just plants that are part of Christmas. If you want to ‘plant a smile’ on the face of your nearest and dearest then give them a gift that lasts long after the festive season is over such as National Garden Gift Vouchers (www.thevouchergarden.co.uk). That way friends and family can choose the gift that they really want for their garden – and you can put your feet up instead of spending all that time on Christmas shopping…

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