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My garden in January

New Beginnings

This may seem such a bleak and miserable time of year, but there’s another way of looking at it. January is not just the start of the calendar year, it’s the chance make a new beginning, and start over afresh in your garden.
Although the ground will be looking bare in places, many plants will be stirring unseen and underground. Soon their precious little shoots will be pushing relentlessly through the soil. It’s such a primal process I find it a constant source of wonderment and delight.
The days will soon be visibly getting longer and even though it is cold and rainy there are plenty of things to plan for in the coming season, some of which you can do simply by peering through the window into the damp gloom outside. You can think from the comfort of your home about how you want your garden to look in the coming months.
Give the garden a good weed and cut back grasses and perennials that you had left for winter interest. Then spread broken down compost from your compost bin around the stems and crowns of your plants. It will help guard against the cold, look good and help your plants in the future.
Once your Christmas tree has been discarded make sure that it is recycled. It is so easy to do nowadays. Leave it out in the green garbage for the bin men to collect or take it down to your local dump and leave in the green section. There’s nothing more dispiriting to see discarded tress just dumped in front gardens.
If you can’t face going out into the garden sit down with the catalogues and decide what to grow in the coming season. Order seeds and plan where you fancy putting your vegetables. It doesn’t have to be the same place every year and even small re-orientations can make a big difference to how things look.
If you have a small garden many vegetables will look surprisingly good and grow happily in flower borders. Many is the time I’ve edged the front of a border with Spinach and given the back of the border height with beans and tomatoes. Or lettuce makes a really good edge to a border. Think ahead and stock up on string, wire, stakes and canes.

Snug in the greenhouse

If you don’t have much in the greenhouse now is the ideal time to clean it out as you’ll be inside and snug against the cold. I love pottering around inside my greenhouse cleaning up and planning for the future. Put old compost into the garden and old plants onto the compost heap. It all keeps the cycle going.
Do ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days as botrytis easily overtakes the plants in the winter. Check Dahlia, Begonia and Canna for rot and also make sure they’ve not dried out.
This month is the last chance to sow seeds that need frost to germinate.
In a heated greenhouse or on a windowsill inside sow Sweet pea seeds, Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium seeds. They all need a long growing season.
Lily bulbs can be planted up now as well.

Back in the house

Houseplants will hardly need watering now. If they are sited on windowsills make sure on frosty nights they are not left there behind the curtains as they could become frosted. I love potting up Amaryllis now if I’ve not got round to doing it in December. They have such amazing flower heads, a deep warming splash of red to cheer things up.

Don’t be afraid of the cold

There’s always something you can do outside in January, however off-putting freezing conditions might seem. Most of what I’m suggesting will soon warm you up, once you get going. There’s such a feeling of virtue going back into the house after a spell attending to tress, shrubs and plants.
If we get snow, that’s beautiful, it can bring the child out in us all. But do remember to brush the snow off conifers and climbers if there’s any danger the weight may break off branches.
If you’ve not already done so vacant beds can now be dug over. Check that pots sited under eaves and balconies don’t need watering. Very often they get forgotten, as you don’t think of watering in the winter.
Wisteria will need pruning. Cut back the side shoots to 2 to 3 buds. Ornamental vines, Ivy and Virginia creeper can be cut back now. It’s sensible to make sure they are not growing in gutters and starting to cover doors and windows. Prune roses back to just above a bud and remove any crossing or dead branches.
It’s easy to tie in climbers and wall shrubs now as access will be easier while other plants have died down.

Do’s and don’ts of pruning trees and taking cuttings

Most trees except for Conifers should be pruned in the winter months. Don’t prune Cherries, Plums or Apricots now, as this will make them susceptible to Silver Leaf.
Root cuttings can still be taken of Papaver, Acanthus, Phlox and Verbascum also hardwood cuttings of shrubs. Hardwood cuttings taken last year will either need potting up now or planting out.

It is a good idea to cut back old Hellebores and Iris unguicularis leaves so that their flowers are exposed.

Lawns, not forgetting the worms

If you didn’t do autumn maintaince this can still be done now. If the lawn is very wet spike it all over with a fork and fill the holes with sharp sand and loam and brush in with a stiff broom.
Repairs can be done now to any hollows and bumps that you want to get rid of.
You may see worm casts all over the lawn these can be easily brushed away when it’s not wet.

Back to the vegetables

Leeks and parsnips can be harvested now. If you want to grow early peas cover the ground where you’ll want to plant them with a cloche to give a chance for the soil to warm up. Early potatoes will need chitting now and you can stand them on end on egg boxes. Make sure you place the egg boxes in a bright frost free place.
Potatoes can be grown in containers or black dustbin bags in an unheated greenhouse. They will need protecting with fleece on very cold nights.

Planting – some good combinations

Galanthus nivalis, the common Snowdrop will be pushing up through the soil now. Their delightful white flowers give hope that spring is not far away. They are best planted in the green (which means while they are growing) rather than from bulbs as there is a better survival rate. Plant with Skimmia japonica Rubella and an evergreen Heuchera.  Another combination is Evergreen Heuchera with Hellebores foetidus. The Hellebores flowers are apple green and Iris unguicularis, which has flowers that are white through to a violet blue.
Erica carnea will be flowering and looks stunning with Cornus alba sibirica and Cornus sericea Flavivrumea. Cornus also looks very good with Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens (Black grass), as does Betula pendula.
Buxus semperviren, although it doesn’t flower, always gives form to a garden and goes with so many different plants. You could plant a knot garden with different herbs in the centre for the summer.
The witch hazel Hamamelis virginia has scented yellow flowers that planted with Camellias always looks good. Sarcococca humils (Christmas Box) flowers in January. The tiny scented flowers are so uplifting on a dull January day. Plant them as a hedge in the front garden with Cyclamen to edge. Or Skimmia x confusa Kew Green.  Hellebores nigra the Christmas rose usually flowers in January rather than December plant it to edge a border or in a woodland setting or with Sarcococca in the front garden.
By the end of January, Christmas and the New Year resolutions will be in the dim and distant past and we’ll be heading into February with the delight of the spring bulbs ahead of us.

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