Garden Diary: January
Bulbs and flowers
Cut off old hellebore leaves. This greatly reduces the risk of hellebore black spot and allows the buds to be seen before the new leaves come through. Don’t compost any leaves with dark patches.
Keep borders clear of fallen foliage which will cover new bulb shoots and provide hiding places for slugs and snails.
Check any stored tubers of perennials, fruit and vegetables for damage and remove any bruised or rotting items.
Greenhouse and containers
Check for and remove dead or dying leaves and any mould which can quickly spread. Continue to let some air in on warmer days…add insulation if it turns very cold.
Keep the glass free of dirt and algae to maximise light levels.
In the house, keep potted hyacinths and cyclamen in the coolest, brightest spot to keep them flowering longer. Water cyclamen sparingly: yellowing leaves are a sign of overwatering.
Trees, shrubs and climbers
Prune back climbing roses, but not ramblers (which should be pruned directly after flowering): climbers flower on the coming season’s growth, so should be pruned from November to March.
Prune deciduous shrubs that flower from late June onwards.
Perform winter pruning on wisteria. Cut whippy, lateral growths back to two or three buds from where they join the main stem.
As long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, continue to plants shrubs, trees and hedges.
Keep an eye on recent plantings which may need firming in if movement has been caused by wind or as a result of frost.
Brush any snow from branches, especially evergreens, which can break under the weight.
It won’t always work, but pressing mistletoe berries into the bark on apple tree branches might just produce some plants.
Try forcing rhubarb. You can use an inverted terracotta pot with the drainage hole blocked – or a bucket.
Cut winter fruiting raspberries down to the ground.
Cut out the oldest stems on blackcurrant bushes. Shorten side shoots on red and white currants.
Other jobs around the garden
Make sure the birds don’t go short of food and water. Keep bird feeders clean, especially peanut feeders.
On the work front: get the mower serviced, tools sharpened and pots and trays washed, ready for the spring.
When you’re not working, look out and listen for families of long-tailed tits and groups of migrant redwings and fieldfares.
Put on something warm and visit some gardens for ideas. Winter interest is often missing in the garden. Look for early flowering, scented daphnes; the colourful winter stems of salix (willow) and cornus (dogwood) the vibrant yellow flowers of the mahonias and the violet-blue flowers of the Algerian iris, iris unguicularis, which is easy to grow in a sheltered spot that gets summer sun.