January 2017 Gardener


Widemouth Bay N Cornwall UK Winter

January – New Year new garden and garden planning  


How content are you with your garden?  What do you really want to achieve? Will a simple plan enable you to make changes and improvements and provide interesting ideas for thought and discussion? Was last year’s gardening experience up to expectation?  Can you remember ideas you thought might motivate you to make those exciting changes you always wanted to?  It’s not too late to make decisions for the coming gardening year.


Juarassic  Charmouth Beach Dorset UK Winter


List any structural and planting changes for your garden . Did you want to create more space?  Do some raised beds need adding, especially if growing tap root vegetables, the Umbelliferae family eg  carrots, parsnips, celery etc require depth which also helps to stop carrot fly. Drainage improves hugely with a raised bed and you can add attractive and fragrant companion annual plants such as tagetes and marigolds that many vegetable pests hate.  It works!


Forde Abbey Dorset UK preparations for kitchen garden planting


Get rid of poor and unsightly shrubs and plants that no longer contribute to your garden.  Add fragrance and attractive foliage and more colourful longer flowering spring and summer species.  It’s worth having a look in a garden book/website/garden centres for ideas. The RHS website is helpful in describing a plant’s horticultural requirements. Spend time checking labels at garden centres to assist your planting decisions.  Garden centres offer the plants that can be put in to your beds now and which are constantly changing with the season so it’s well worth a pleasant trip out each month to help with planning plant choices.


QUICK planning priority list


Winter Prunus

Small tree winter flowering Cherry Prunus x subhirtilla

Soil  – Acid Alkali or Neutral – try to do a pH check with an inexpensive testing kit.  Take a small sample of soil, add some distilled water and shake then use the indicator to see what soil pH you have. Also is it sandy or clay or is it nice and mixed and crumbly?  Add plenty of fresh compost – your plants will soon respond.  Some moderate feeding will be welcome in March onwards, especially when plants start to flower. Vegetables will have their own feeding requirements, so do check first.


Plant size – consider height, size, light and, often omitted, space and air circulation. Also, often forgotten, the spread of plants.  Shrubs are small trees so plan and prune carefully. Ground cover may be just what you want in difficult areas to plant.  Climbers should give great pleasure and lift colour up above all the other plants and can be used for covering up unsightly objects.Small trees are available up to 15ft  approx 4 metres max such as Prunus xsubhirtilla (pic)


Containers can be used successfully for bulbs, summer flowering bedding plants and annuals. Try some vegetables in a deep container if you haven’t done so before, as well as specimen standard shrubs and tender plants.  Containers can be moved around to achieve the best position, but do so before adding water as they become too heavy.  Keep them well watered during hot weather and add water crystals before going away.  They work well!!

Enjoy the New Year gardening, Spring is not far away, bulbs are popping their heads up starting with Snowdrops – Galanthus,  Winter aconite – Eranthis hyamelis in lovely spreading yellow in preparation for early Spring .


Sarcococca confusa – fragrant ,small garden plant


Shrubs popular in January are Skimmia japonica (pic) male and female for berries).  Very fragrant Sarcococca -Christmas Box is a great pleasure on  a cold winter walk around your garden.


Brilliant coloured Cornus stems  in red or gold are worth a very serious thought. Small attractive bare stem trees – I recommend the  Prunus x subhirtella (pic)– flowering cherry and the smaller very fragrant pink coloured Vibernum bodnantense  both easy to grow in well drained soil.  Both these small trees look superb in winter as there are no leaves just pink flowers against dark stems, rather similar to the Cercis  siliquastrum which flowers in late springHammamelis – witch hazel is another unusual fragrant bare and dark branched winter shrub with fragrant spidery yellow flowers and let’s not forget the faithful winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima  with fragrant white and yellow flowers.


Have a great 2017 new year, but for the plants it started on 22nd of December, the equinox ,when days started  getting longer -hoorah.

science for the gardener

Tony Arnold ACIHort

Editors note Any suggestions on naming this strange animal – horticultural graft or hybrid ,please use  contact page for some New Year frivolity .


Unknown Genus Deer- Tree or hybrid- even a graft !!.