January may seem a little dull and grey in the garden, but in reality it is an exciting time for fresh starts, looking ahead, and planning a beautiful garden for the twelve months ahead. Jobs in the garden this month are mostly about keeping things trim and tidy in preparation for the year to come.
We will all be pleased to say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a better year ahead. The one thing for sure is that our gardens have brought us great comfort and joy for so many of us having spent a lot of time at home. It has encouraged us to take on garden projects large or small that has been a good source of stress relief and satisfaction in both body and mind.
First thing on the list for the year is how to get rid of your Christmas tree! Check and see if the local council are offering a recycling or collection service. You may prefer to recycle your tree as the needles of fir trees make excellent ericaceous compost, perfect for pleasing camellias, heathers, rhododendrons and azaleas. Depending on your tree, this might be as simple as sweeping up the fallen needles from the sitting room. If you have a fancy tree that’s been bred to never let go, snip off the branches from the main trunk. If you have access to a garden shredder this will speed things up no end. Otherwise chop by hand into smaller pieces, then scatter around the base of your ericaceous plants and let nature do her thing. You can also use the evergreen branches as frost protection; they are excellent for protecting perennial crowns.
You may not have done this at this time of the year, but it is said that winter is a fantastic time to clip box hedging. People used to say it should be done on Derby Day but that was before the arrival of Box Blight which loves the combination of warm, moist weather, little air movement and freshly wounded (as in clipped) box leaves and branches. However box blight is dormant in winter, which means a box hedge clipped in winter will have healed by early spring and so be much less prone to attack by box blight. It is a good time to rake up and burn any leaves under the box because that is where the blight is over-wintering.
Prune wisteria. The main framework of large stems will have grown long whippy side shoots that should have been reduced in length around midsummer. These same side shoots should now be cut back to 2-3 buds from the previous year’s growth so that you encourage the production of more flower buds. When people say their wisteria never flowers it is usually because they did not prune around this time.
Cut off old leaves of hellebores if you haven’t already done so from ground level to expose the flowers.
In mild areas and during dry spells you can lift and divide herbaceous perennials to increase stocks and revive poorly flowering clumps.
It’s a good time to cut a fresh edge to your lawn when most plants have been cut back as you can see more easily what you are doing.
If you haven’t already done so, raise pots off the ground to avoid plants having their roots sitting in the wet and for pots cracking in the frost.
Continue to rake up any winter debris and leaves off your borders to keep them tidy. Clear up any weedy beds ready for mulching in spring.
January always feels like the longest and coldest month so cheer yourself up by choosing summer flowering bulbs. Order them now ready for planting in spring. Put the kettle on, have a nice cup of tea and finish off the Christmas cake!
Sally Watts is a Professional Garden Designer who has been featured in national magazines for her fabulous work on plots throughout the country. For more tips and inspiration go to her website: sallywattsgardendesign.co.uk