This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to the oncoming festivities; Santa Claus, friends and family coming home and getting the house ready for Christmas. We tend to forget about the garden, but yet it can still contribute in a large way.
The vegetable garden can contribute to your Christmas dinner, harvesting potatoes, cabbage, brussells sprouts, parsnips, leeks, swedes and carrots that are still coming onstream. Carrots, potatoes and swedes can be lifted unless your ground is free draining. They can also be pitted, which many of the older generation would know of, as it was the only storage method years ago. Potatoes can also be stored in a cool shed. The rest of the vegetable garden can be cleared, dug over and left fallow to the frost.
In the ornamental garden you can still plant polyanthus, winter pansies, sweet williams, stocks, wallflowers, bachelors buttons, etc. for winter and early spring colour. A lot of the late herbaceous perennial flowering plants have been hit by frost now and gone brown, so you can cut them back hard and mulch over them with peat or compost.
A tip for people with lots of pots to avoid frost damage; pots usually crack when the moisture in the soil expands and cracks the pot, raise the pot off the ground with something and this will reduce the amount of moisture within the pot. With large pots you can use bubble wrap insulation (used in fragile goods) and wrap and tie it around the pot.
Now is still a good time to plant bareroot trees and hedging. Bareroot means that the plant has its normal root system but is not in a pot, they are heeled into the soil. This is done only between October and March. They are usually a little bit cheaper than the potted plants. The most common bareroot hedging are Griselinia, Escallonia and Beech. There is also a wide range of bareroot trees. Now is also an ideal time for lifting and transplanting any trees and shrubs that need moving.
At this time of year most people ask about hollies. This has been a good year as most are laden down with berries, both wild and cultivated varieties. The most commonly planted are Ilex Golden King and Silver Queen, male and female. Good self berrying varieties are the green Ilex J.C. van Tol and Ilex pyrimadalis and the variegated Ilex “Handsworth new Silver”.
Most of us still put up a real Xmas tree rather than artificial and it brings lots of joy to most households in decorating it and frustration in others, especially if the lights are on the blink! The two most common trees now are Lodgepole Pine and Noble Firs. Both are non shed. So you don’t get any needles on the carpet. Some people plant a live Xmas tree, with roots and transplant it and bring it in. This is o.k. for a year or two, but they don’t transplant that well as they get older. They also need to be watered which is a problem inside, if there is carpet, etc. They dry out quite easily with heat from radiators, open fires, etc.
Lastly, a lot of people get gifts of pot plants for Christmas; poinsettias, cyclamens, Xmas cactus, solanums, etc. How do I care for them? Poinsettias like average warmth with lots of light. Water thoroughly but wait until the compost is moderately dry before watering again. If the room is very humid, mist the leaves occasionally. Xmas cherries or solanums like a cooler room temperature, lots of light and keep the compost moist at all times; mist regularly.
Cyclamens like a cool room temperature, lots of light, keep moist at all times using soft water (rain water) and semi-tepid (lukewarm). Put pebbles on tray or saucer if possible. Xmas cactus like an average room temperature, well lit spot, no sunlight, water liberally when compost begins to dry out.
That’s if for now, happy gardening.
Nolláig Shoná do gach dúine on flóireann oibre Guírdínleann Glynns.
Bosco McDermott, Jnr., Glynns Garden Centre