It’s chilly out there and there’s not very much daylight, so you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s not too much to do in the garden in December. On the days when it’s dry and cold, it’s good to get outside for some gardening. It’s a kind of moving meditation where you get lost in your thoughts and enjoy the natural surroundings, perfect for this busy time of year.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to be overly tidy, there are lots of creatures out there that will be grateful for the seed-heads and shelter that dying plants give. The aim is to flag your garden up as an accommodating place, providing shelter and food for friendly insects and birds. These are our allies and they’ll be a great help in the garden next year when they start feeding on pests like aphids and slugs.
Plants also add structural shape to the garden, so keep them there until the next month at least.
Now is the time to prune acers birch or vines prune, if left to the new year they’ll bleed profusely from the wound which weakens the tree. They don’t need to be pruned, but you may want to cut back an overhanging branch. Take care to keep their elegant shape of mature trees.
Vines, however, need more severe treatment, cut back the new growth (the stem is a much lighter colour) so that only a pair of buds remains on this part of the stem.
Dig up dahlias:
We’ve had a few gentle frosts here, enough to send the dahlia foliage into a rapid decline. Once the leaves are blackened by frost, they can be dug up and stowed away in a garage, shed or cold greenhouse. You can leave them in the ground and cover them with a thick layer of compost or something similar to protect them, but if there’s a severe winter, they’ll start their growth much later and may even die in cold, clay soil.
Dahlias flower for ages, so it’s worth the effort to keep them.
Get the last of the tulip bulbs planted if there are still some hanging around, put them in pots if the ground is frozen.
Start looking through seed catalogues and make plans for what you’ll be growing next year, I love the thought of this, order early so that you get plenty of choice. It may help to look through photos that you may have of the garden taken during the year, it’s a good reminder of where the gaps are.
Plant shrubs and trees:
If the ground isn’t soggy and wet or frozen.
Gather up leaves from the base of rose bushes that had diseases like black-spot. The virus lives on in the leaves so they can’t be added to the compost bin.
Protect outside taps:
We have a little coat for ours made from bubble-wrap and covered in hessian, to make it look nicer.
Still time to plant up amaryllis (hippeastrum)and paper-whites narcissi, though paper-whites may be difficult to find at this stage of the year. Amaryllis will give you a wonderful display and paper-whites fill the room with scent.
Find out how to grow amaryllis in this earlier post.