Posted by Catherine Wainwright, on December 5, 2023.
Read time: 5 minutes.
As December unfolds, the British garden undergoes a transformation. The vibrant hues of autumn foliage have given way to a quieter, more subdued landscape. Whilst winter’s chill may deter some gardeners, those in the know understand that there’s magic to be found in the December garden. It’s a time when the garden’s bones are revealed, when the subtle beauty of evergreens, winter-flowering plants, and the intricate patterns of frost take centre stage. From tending to winter blooms to preparing for spring, nurturing wildlife, and engaging in garden projects, this month offers a unique opportunity to connect with your garden and embrace the serenity of the season.
Preparing for Winter Weather
- Protecting Tender Plants: December can bring frosty nights and even snowfall. To shield your more delicate plants from the cold, consider using frost cloths or horticultural fleece. These materials can be draped over plants in the evening and removed during the day to capture warmth from the sun.
- Insulating Outdoor Taps: Frozen pipes can be a headache during the winter months. To prevent this, insulate outdoor taps and any exposed pipework with foam insulation or pipe sleeves. This will help ensure a free flow of water and avoid the hassle of burst pipes.
- Clearing Debris and Fallen Leaves: Fallen leaves can create a slippery and potentially hazardous surface on pathways and driveways. Regularly clear these areas to prevent accidents and use fallen leaves to create compost.
- Pruning and Shaping Deciduous Trees and Shrubs: Deciduous trees and shrubs have now shed their leaves, revealing their underlying structure. It’s an excellent time to assess their shape and prune any damaged or wayward branches. Ensure you follow proper pruning techniques, cutting just above a bud or branch junction. Remember to avoid major pruning for spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia and lilac, as this can reduce their blooming potential.
December provides a window of opportunity to prepare your garden for the rigours of winter while keeping an eye on future growth and beauty. These maintenance tasks will help keep your garden looking tidy and resilient throughout the season.
Winter Flowering Plants
Winter doesn’t have to mean a lack of colour in your garden. Choose from a variety of winter-flowering plants to brighten up those dull December days. Popular choices include pansies, winter heather, and winter-flowering jasmine. Ensure they’re well-watered and, if necessary, protected from harsh frost to enjoy their vibrant blooms throughout the season.
While many deciduous plants have shed their leaves, evergreens remain a constant presence in your garden. To keep them looking their best, trim any dead or damaged branches and tidy up their shape. Apply a slow-release, balanced fertiliser to provide them with essential nutrients during the colder months.
Bulbs and Spring Preparations
December is the ideal time to plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils, crocuses, and tulips. Choose a location with well-draining soil and good sunlight. Plant them at the recommended depth and spacing to ensure a beautiful display once spring arrives.
Whilst your garden is winding down for the year, it’s the perfect time to plan for the upcoming spring. Consider which plants you’d like to introduce, sketch out new layouts or features, and order any seeds or plants you’ll need. In addition to this it can be a good idea to inspect and clean your garden tools to ensure they’re ready for action when spring arrives.
Feeding and Sheltering Garden Wildlife
As the temperature drops, garden wildlife, including birds and small mammals, may struggle to find food. Help them out by maintaining bird feeders with high-energy feeds like suet balls and seeds. Fresh water is also crucial, so ensure your bird baths are free from ice and topped up regularly. Consider planting berry-producing shrubs and trees to provide natural food sources for wildlife.
To support wildlife through the winter, offer them safe and cozy shelters. Leave a portion of your garden untamed with long grass and dense vegetation as a refuge for hedgehogs and insects. Install nesting boxes for birds and bat boxes for nocturnal insect-eaters. These small additions can make a significant difference to the survival of local wildlife during the colder months.
Birdwatching in the Winter Garden
Birdwatching can be a delightful winter pastime. To attract a variety of bird species to your garden, use different types of bird feeders and place them at varying heights. Offer a mix of seeds, nuts, and fruits to cater to different dietary preferences. Regularly clean your feeders to prevent the spread of diseases among the birds.
Incorporate plants that provide food and shelter for birds. Berry-bearing shrubs like holly and pyracantha not only add colour to your garden but also serve as natural bird feeders. Dense evergreens such as yew and juniper offer excellent shelter. Consider planting native species to attract local birdlife.
Winter Container Gardening
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your garden containers have to look bare and uninspiring. Select cold-hardy plants like winter pansies, heathers, and ornamental cabbages to infuse colour and life into your winter containers. Consider adding evergreen accents like small conifers or trailing ivy for a touch of elegance. Why not take a look at our Ergo raised bed or Urban Balcony raised bed to get you started.
Composting in Winter
Keep your compost pile active during the winter with a few adjustments. While decomposition slows in the cold, you can still add kitchen scraps and garden waste, albeit at a slower rate. Consider insulating your compost bin with straw or leaves to help maintain temperature. Regularly turn the pile to aerate it and speed up decomposition. By continuing to compost through winter, you’ll have nutrient-rich compost ready for spring.
Garden Planning for the Next Year
Take some time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past gardening year. What grew well? What could have been better? Use these insights to inform your plans for the upcoming season.
As winter provides a quieter period in the garden, use this time to set goals and make plans for the next year. Consider what new plants you’d like to introduce, any changes to your garden layout, and improvements you’d like to make. Explore our range of products at Garantia to elevate your gardening game ahead of the next season.