Winter Tricks to Improve your Garden
It may be winter but at our garden design studio we’re busy designing and planning gardens. The joy of planting represents just a fraction of our time. Meanwhile, our hardy landscapers continue laying paths and patios right up to Christmas and start back first thing in the new year. As you might expect, a few materials shouldn’t be laid when temperatures fall below 4°C, but new mortar and resin additives mean that most works can continue, assuming the weather isn’t biblical!
Our gardeners are also occupied with many jobs such as leaf management, deciduous hedge care, tree and shrub pruning and we generally start planting again after the last frosts. Sometimes I worry that our guys and gals deserve a break from working in such cold and wet conditions – brrrr! - but needs must. Hot chocolate anybody?
Time to get inspired
If you’re looking at your garden and feeling a sense of disappointment with its current state, or how it performed last summer, winter is a fantastic time to plan ahead. In winter, we can see the bones of our gardens. Devoid of blooms and deciduous foliage; paths, lawns and patios are laid bare.
A pocket guide to planning ahead
As you look at your garden, ask yourself: Is that patio in the right place? Is the path wide enough? What are the views like? Your garden’s 2D layout and hard landscaping is just the starting point. Next, think vertically in terms of structures, trees, hedging and large shrubs. Then, planting. Consider evergreen trees and shrubs, as well as plants with winter seed heads such as hydrangeas and tall grasses. Are there enough of these ‘architectural’ plants? Are they in the right places? Are there any ‘dead gaps’ in the border, which fill up in summer, but look oddly empty now? Visit local gardens for inspiration. My favourites include Nymans, Standen, Wakehurst and RHS Garden Wisley.
Resist the impulse buy
Rather than waiting til spring to fill your trolley with spontaneous purchases at the garden centre, (when it’s just too tempting to be drawn by plants with fleeting colour), now is the perfect time to plan what’s going to give your garden year-round structure. So make your shopping list now and plant in March. Once done, you can then have fun plugging the gaps with seasonal colour and scent!
9 Winter Garden Jobs
1. Rake up leaves. If you have room, pop them into a bin, wire cage or black sack to rot down to form a mulch for borders next year.
2. Keep off the lawn. Try not to walk on the lawn, especially if it’s a shady one, it will lead to bald patches.
3. Hose care. Pop a tap jacket on your outside tap and, if you have one, switch off your irrigation system for winter, following your installer’s instructions.
4. Protect plants from frost. Bring tender pot plants indoors, wrap half-hardy plants in horticultural fleece and pop cloches over winter salads.
5. Tool care. Sharpen and oil your garden tools. Wash and dry gardening gloves. Tidy out the tool shed.
6. Lift and divide. Lift and divide plants that have outgrown their location.
7. Cut and prune. Cut deciduous hedges, prune apple trees, prune and train climbing roses. (Check RHS guidance first if unsure).
8. Don’t over work clay soil. Rather than digging over beds, add a nice layer of well-rotted manure or leaf mould to new beds or bare areas. We have a lot of clay soil in the Reigate and Redhill area and it’s best to pop on a top layer and let the worms do the work of turning it.
9. Cover the ground. Cover any veg beds on allotments with landscape fabric or cardboard to keep weeds down – this is much more eco friendly than using weed killers.
Article by Laura Bedell-Pearce, garden designer in Reigate and Redhill. Check out our “Garden Makeover Guide”