Garden Blog | January 2018
With the excesses of seasonal festivities now behind us, days are lengthening and the garden is stirring back to life. Snowdrops and winter aconites that thrill with massed carpets of pure white and golden yellow in February, are erupting forth at breakneck speed. Flowering shrubs such as Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), Winter Box (Sarcococca confusa) and a plethora of Hamamelis varieties, not only bring colour but marvellous sweet scents to the gardens. Beneath these splendid shrubs, Hellebores are beginning to add their contribution to the floral display. To get the best from Hellebores it is advisable to remove last year’s leaves. Removing the old leaves will not only mean that the flowers are not obscured by tired foliage, but will also reduce the risk of fungal disease that can decimate these perennial spring favourites.
January is the ideal time to plan ahead for summer and browse through seed catalogues in search of old favourites, as well as something new and enticing to brighten our gardens. Here at Deene Park we grow many plants from seed, as it is an exceptionally cost effective and rewarding way of producing new plants. Seed sowing season is still a short way off, but it’s best to get your orders in early.
Producing plants from cuttings is another very inexpensive way to grow plants for the home and garden. The plants raised from cuttings that were taken here back in the autumn are coming on nicely. We are on track for a super summer display.
If you have still not pruned your fruit trees, you do have a short window during January to get the task completed. As you may remember from previous posts, we have recently established a new orchard and have been undertaking formative pruning to establish successful fruiting trees. For our espalier trees, we tie in a strong leading branch from the end of each tier into a horizontal rail, extending each tier by up to 2ft. Side shoots are reduced to approximately three buds in length. Over time, this method will produce a good structure of flowering buds, resulting in an ever increasing crop of juicy apples. For free standing fruit trees, our aim is to form a goblet shape of main branches that are reduced in length by approximately one third. As with espalier trees, side shoots are cut back to approximately three buds in length. The goblet shape allows good circulation of air through the tree, and easy access to the fruit. Although winter is the ideal time to prune apples and pears, stone fruit such as cherries, plums, and damsons, should left until late spring or early summer for pruning, to reduce the risk of transmitting bacterial canker.
Finally, another timely task is planting bare root trees and shrubs such as roses. It’s worth remembering that you should not plant bare root specimens when the soil is frozen or snow covered, as this is sure to result in unnecessary losses.