I dig winter. After a rampant growing season, early winter offers an opportunity to restore a little order bringing with it spade work – dividing perennials, lifting dahlias, cutting ginger and cannas to the ground and planting bare-rooted roses and trees. Sharpen up the edge of your tool of choice and away we go.
Take a leaf from Chelsea Show this week and have some fun! Colour the garden with annuals. Choose from pansies, snapdragons, larkspur, primrose, cineraria and alyssum. Diarmuid Gavin’s garden was crazy pretty.
Plant rhubarb, leek and spinach.
Last chance for tulips! Bargains may be bagged but make sure bulbs are not inferior quality. Refuse any with black spots or mould.
Plant a shade tree for future pleasure and protection.
Old roses flower well in winter and it’s a great time to plant them. ‘Marechal Niel’ is a climbing tea-noisette with soft-yellow, scented blooms. ‘Safrano’ is an old tea rose with long, pointed buds opening to fragrant soft apricot. Cerise climber ‘Madame Issac Periere’ has the best fragrance of all.
Prune hydrangeas back by one third to a double bud.
Cut back autumn-flowering perennials such as Easter daisies (asters), chrysanthemum, canna lilies and ginger lilies.
Prune camellia sasanqua after flowering. Hedge trimmers are perfect for this task.
Prune dead foliage on dahlias to the ground. Use a small stake to mark the site of the dahlia and its name. Spread a layer of cow manure around. Dahlias will re-shoot in late spring.
Fix water retention problems in the soil. Add gypsum and well-rotted animal manures then cover with compost.
Dahlias in well-drained soil can be left in the ground. Otherwise tubers should be lifted once the foliage has yellowed and died down so they don’t rot. Store tubers in a box of dry sand until late spring.
Order catalogues from Diggers, Lambley, Green Harvest and Green Patch Organic Seeds for great winter reading and planning.
Refresh the shed – clean and sharpen tools, pump up the wheelbarrow tyres.
Protect budding magnolias against possum damage with a sonic device such as Strayban.
Deep-water camellias to prolong flowering; add some seaweed to the watering can to promote plant health.
Lift and divide summer-flowering perennials that have been left alone for a few years. Discard old, woody centres. Replant new shoots and runners from the perimeter of the clump into soil enriched with compost and manure.