Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary December 2011

'A warm Christmas, a cold Easter '

The weather during most of November was mild and gentle. In fact the warmest since Captain Cook declared Australia for Britain. This has meant delayed dormancy for many garden plants that underwent unseasonal flowering last month. During December we can expect little sunshine, whilst rain and gales are common, with fog and frost inevitable when pressure rises during an anticyclone. This all makes garden work difficult in December, but we must struggle on tidying up the garden and preparing the ground. Last month’s damp, mild weather was perfect for planting so wherever possible planting should now be finished. The soil by now will be chilled through and even the hardiest of plants do not benefit from being left in cold, wet soil without a roothold for three months.

Now is a good time to dig over borders for next year’s hardy annuals. I don't tend to dig in manure or compost unless the ground is heavy as annuals flower best on soil that is not too rich. The veg. patch was dug over in autumn so not much to do there. Maybe protect the tops of parsnips and artichokes with bracken or straw. Ash from the woodburner can be spread, especially useful for onions. If you have an area set aside for cuttings it is worthwhile firming them in from time to time especially after frosts, as loose stems are the main cause of failure.

The roses went on and on this year but by now they are tired and straggly. I cut the flowering growths on mine half-way back, this leaves them tidy for winter and reduces wind rock. Some people do their main rose pruning before winter, though I do it in March. Large flowered Clematis can be pruned towards the end of the month, cutting back to around five feet from the ground.

As we approach Christmas we may be thinking what the garden may provide in the way of decoration. Apart from the Holly, which has an excellent berry crop this year, Mahonia leaves make good structural material for wreaths. I like to save some Sea Thistle and Teasels for spraying. The dried seed heads of Honesty look well shaking and shivering in a vase on the piano.  Stems from many shrubs and trees, including winter flowering Jasmine, Viburnum, Berberis, Hawthorn and Witch hazel may be cut around mid-month and put in a vase of water in the house, these should be in full flower by Christmas.

Time at last to repair to the shed and enjoy the sharpening and oiling of our tools.  Finally, we may enjoy a long pipe, whilst contemplating a well-earned surfeit of lampreys at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas.

Content kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit