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Gardening Winter 2007
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener
It has been a mild autumn with some beautiful, warm and sunny weekends which have given me plenty of time in the garden to prepare it for winter. The lawn got its autumn grooming and all perennials were cut back except those which I wanted to leave for attracting birds and for decoration. I took the opportunity to lift and thin out large clumps of Japanese anemones and montbretia, both of which are rather invasive. This should also improve flowering of the montbretia next year. I have been able to clear and move around other plants leaving me the opportunity to alter the look of one of my borders next spring.
As Christmas approaches my gardening efforts turn towards enlivening the house for the following few weeks and on in to January. When I remember to do so, I cut stems of chaenomeles and Viburnum Bodnentense ‘Dawn' and put them in water in a cool place. If done in early December, with luck, this encourages the stems to flower in time for Christmas. Bulbs will flower 3 to 4 weeks after bringing inside so I bring my planted up bowls and hyacinth glasses inside in mid to late December. They should start to flower in the New Year and liven up the rather dull period in January and February. One of the preparations I most enjoy on Christmas Eve is to bring in greenery from the garden. I usually bring in ivy, holly, rosemary, variegated euonymous, and winter flowering jasmine, and use them in vases and also draped around banisters and pictures.
Every year, my snowdrops seem to flower earlier and, out of interest, I have started to make a note of the date that the first ones appear. I have a very early clump which is just opposite the front door so I see them every time I leave the house, and can keep a close watch on their progress. When flowering has finished, if the clump is getting too big, it can be lifted and divided and replanted around the garden.
When the spring bulbs are in flower I make a note of where other bulbs would look good the following year. However, in autumn when the bulbs should be planted, it can be difficult to see where to plant them without damaging bulbs already under the ground. I have avoided this problem for next spring by planting some yellow crocuses in pots, which I want for the front garden, so I can then transplant them when the buried bulbs are in flower. Or, in spring I could search the garden centres to see if I can buy them in flower, but this way is much more expensive.
As February arrives I try to get into the garden, if the weather allows, to cut back any perennials I left in the autumn for their seed heads, and to tidy up borders so that I can see spring bulbs and flowers as they emerge. I have several dogwoods which I grow for their bright winter stems; these should be cut back before the end of the month to encourage new growth which will be colourful the following winter.
Buddleias should be pruned right back in February to encourage flowering later in the year. I have a few and I try to stagger the pruning through the month to allow flowering to take place in succession and thus lengthen the flowering time. I prune my winter flowering clematis ‘Armandii' and winter flowering jasmine after they have finished flowering. I also have a clematis ‘Alba Luxurians' growing up a pergola which is late flowering and should be cut back in February to 1 or 2 healthy buds as it flowers on the year's new growth; cutting back now will encourage it to flower lower down the plant on the pergola uprights, rather than just along the top.
With the spring bulbs comes the new season and time to start on any new plans for the garden. I have big plans for 2008 as I am planning to clear an area to develop a vegetable patch and am looking forward to watching it grow along with the rest of my garden.