My first wish for this Christmas and New Year is that we won’t get the inclement weather of last year. We recorded a minus 12 frost last December and this combined with the large snow fall, killed a lot of plants outright in peoples gardens. Plants such as Olerias, Pittosporums, Ceanothus, Cordylines, Escallonia, Griselinia were severely hit or killed. A lot of people were lucky that some of their plants came back in Spring, in particular Escallonias. So a word of warning if severe frost is promised, protect the plants with polythene or fleece cover. Plants with spiky foliage, such as Cordylines, Phormiums etc could be tied up together with string first and then covered with fleece or canvas or polythene.
The mild weather we are having at present, is making life easy in the garden. Some people were able to cut their lawns up until recently. Avoid travelling on the lawn, and clean up any leaves off the grass. The vegetable garden can be tidied up now and dug over. Remove old debris and dig in any organic type material such as seaweed, farmyard manure (dung), mushroom compost or material from your compost heap. Mushroom compost contains a high degree of lime which is ideal for Brassicas but not for potatoes, so beware!
Its an ideal time to cheer up your pots or borders near the house as with the mild weather all the winter bedding plants are doing well. Polyanthus, violas, winter pansies, wallflowers, skimmia, rubella (red flowers), skimmia reevesiana (red berries), variegated ivies, carex (variegated grass) and winter flowering heathers give a nice mix of colour.
It has been a most remarkable year for berries with Cotoneaster, Hollies, Pyracanthas, Mountain Ash, etc—all laden with berries.
Every year we mention the same inevitable piece about the Christmas tree. Christmas is not Christmas without a tree, and you can choose from a range of very realistic artificial trees, to live trees in pots. Picea Abies Koreanna is a lovely one in a pot. Spruces do best transplanted out though. The most difficult type to transplant is the noble fir. So choose a spruce. There are three types of cut tree in the main, the Noble Fir, which is the King of the Christmas trees, Spruce and Lodge Pole Pine. Norway Spruce was once the most popular but its tendency to shed leaves has left at the bottom ring. The Noble Fir is a non shed tree—a beautiful full blue/green colour with a nice scent. The Lodge Pole pine is also non shed—a light green colour. A stand that can hold the tree and that has a reservior for water is the best. Top up the reservior with water occasionally—particularly with central heating near by—to stop it drying out. Choosing a gift for the gardener in your life can be difficult, they may already have the plant or tool etc. The easy way out and one that gives the gardener the best choice, is a gift of a gift token.
A lot of people ask at this time of year also about looking after pot plants they receive as gifts. Below is a few pointers as to how to look after them.
- Pointsettias—they like average warmth with lots of light, water thoroughhly but wait until the compost is moderately dry before watering again. If the room is very humid, mist the leaves occasionally.
- Solanums—the Xmas Cherry likes a cooler room temperature, lots of light and keep the compost moist at all times. Mist occasionally.
- Cyclamens—they like a cooler room temperature, lots of light and keep moist at all times using soft rain water semi tepid (lukewarm). Put pebbles on the base of the tray or saucer if possible.
- Christmas Cactus—they like an average room temperature, well lit spot, no sunlight, water liberally when the compost begins to dry out.
- Chyrsanthemums—bright light if possible but shade from the mid day sun. Keep the compost moist at all times. A cool 56–60° temperature is ideal. After flowering most plants are discarded but pot chrysanthemums can be planted out in the garden where if they survive, they will revert to their natural growth habit as perennials. The above also applies to azaleas.
That’s it for now, happy gardening and from all of us at Glynn’s Garden Centre, have a very happy Christmas.
Bosco McDermott, Jnr