January – New Year new garden and garden planning
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL
How content are you with your garden? What do you really want to achieve? Will a simple plan enable you to make changes and improvements and provide interesting ideas for thought and discussion? Was last year’s gardening experience up to expectation? Can you remember ideas you thought might motivate you to make those exciting changes you always wanted to? It’s not too late to make decisions for the coming gardening year.
List any structural and planting changes for your garden. Did you want to create more space? Do some raised beds need adding, especially if growing tap root vegetables, the Umbelliferae family eg carrots, parsnips, celery etc require depth which also helps to stop carrot fly. Drainage improves hugely with a raised bed and you can add attractive and fragrant companion annual plants such as tagetes and marigolds that many vegetable pests hate. It works!
Get rid of poor and unsightly shrubs and plants that no longer contribute to your garden. Add fragrance and attractive foliage and more colourful longer flowering spring and summer species. It’s worth having a look in a garden book/website/garden centres for ideas. The RHS website is helpful in describing a plant’s horticultural requirements. Spend time checking labels at garden centres to assist your planting decisions. Garden centres offer the plants that can be put in to your beds now and which are constantly changing with the season so it’s well worth a pleasant trip out each month to help with planning plant choices.
QUICK planning priority list
Soil – Acid Alkali or Neutral – try to do a pH check with an inexpensive testing kit. Take a small sample of soil, add some distilled water and shake then use the indicator to see what soil pH you have. Also is it sandy or clay or is it nice and mixed and crumbly? Add plenty of fresh compost – your plants will soon respond. Some moderate feeding will be welcome in March onwards, especially when plants start to flower. Vegetables will have their own feeding requirements, so do check first.
Plant size – consider height, size, light and, often omitted, space and air circulation. Also, often forgotten, the spread of plants. Shrubs are small trees so plan and prune carefully. Ground cover may be just what you want in difficult areas to plant. Climbers should give great pleasure and lift colour up above all the other plants and can be used for covering up unsightly objects. Small trees are available up to 15ft approx 4 metres max such as Prunus xsubhirtilla.
Containers can be used successfully for bulbs, summer flowering bedding plants and annuals. Try some vegetables in a deep container if you haven’t done so before, as well as specimen standard shrubs and tender plants. Containers can be moved around to achieve the best position, but do so before adding water as they become too heavy. Keep them well watered during hot weather and add water crystals before going away. They work well!!
Shrubs popular in January are Skimmia japonica male and female for berries). Very fragrant Sarcococca - Christmas Box is a great pleasure on a cold winter walk around your garden.
Brilliant coloured Cornus stems in red or gold are worth a very serious thought. Small attractive bare stem trees – I recommend the Prunus x subhirtella – flowering cherry and the smaller very fragrant pink coloured Vibernum bodnantense both easy to grow in well drained soil. Both these small trees look superb in winter as there are no leaves just pink flowers against dark stems, rather similar to the Cercis siliquastrum which flowers in late spring. Hammamelis – witch hazel is another unusual fragrant bare and dark branched winter shrub with fragrant spidery yellow flowers and let’s not forget the faithful winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima with fragrant white and yellow flowers.
Have a great 2017 new year, but for the plants it started on 22nd of December, the equinox, when days started getting longer - hoorah.
Tony Arnold ACIHort