Five tips for December
- Check all structures for wind damage. The last few weeks have been exceptional in many parts of the country, and structures such as fences, stakes, pergolas and arches, particularly wooden ones, may have suffered. Try to replace fences before they fall over completely and do more damage to the garden. Knock in tree stakes that have worked loose and check all ties to make sure they aren’t cutting in or chafing. It’s a good time to start thinking about replacing ornamental arches and the like that have seen better days, while the plants growing up them are dormant and unlikely to suffer if heavily pruned to allow access to their supports.
- The record heavy rainfall of November may have flooded planted containers. This is particularly damaging to spring bulbs, which will soon rot if left in waterlogged compost for long. If containers aren’t draining properly, it’s likely their drainage holes are blocked. Gently clear them with a cane or similar pointed item – water should start running out freely once the problem is remedied. Stand them on bricks, pot feet or similar to raise the base of the pot clear of the paving or soil.
- Why not buy a potted Christmas tree, or any similar conifer that would look decorated? To keep a living Christmas tree looking its best, remember that it is a hardy plant and needs to be kept cool as long as possible before bringing it into the warmth of the living room. Better still, if you can, keep it in an unheated porch, or outside, near the front door, to welcome visitors, but, if outdoors, make sure your lights are suitable for outside use.
- Regularly check prepared hyacinths and other indoor bulbs potted up earlier for Christmas. When about 2-3cm of growth is showing, bring into a cool, light place to green up. They can be brought into a warm room when the flower buds are well-developed – give them a cool, light spot and they will last longer.
- Stuck for a present for a keen gardener? A standard rose can be planted almost anywhere – between other plants, even in a large tub of soil-based compost on the patio or balcony. The variety ‘Osiria’ is particularly striking. This fragrant rose has petals that are flaming red on the inside and white on the outside – a most unusual colour combination. Your friend or relative will enjoy your gift for years after Christmas has come and gone.