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Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 7 - December 2011
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Continue planting bare rooted hedges, trees, roses and shrubs.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from dogwoods, roses, spireas, deutzias, wisterias, forsythias, Virginia creepers, buddleias and willows.
  • Pinch out the tips of wallflowers to encourage bushier growth.
  • Pinch out sweet peas that you sowed in the autumn, wait until the seedlings have 5 leaves then pinch the tip off just above the top leaf.
  • Hard prune spirea to a few inches above soil level to keep a good colour and shape.
  • If it’s all looking a bit dreary outside, treat yourself to some winter bedding (eg pansies) in pots.
Fruit and veg
  • Harvest Brussels sprouts, starting with the lower sprouts.
  • Harvest parsnips and leeks.
  • Check on fruit and veg which you stored in the autumn to ensure there are no signs of rot or pests.
  • Prune congested apple and pear trees, removing damaged and diseased growth then any badly positioned branches.
  • Reduce the risk of peach leaf curl by bringing plants indoors until May or by protecting them from rain with polythene ‘tents’.
  • Cut down the fruited canes of autumn raspberries and blackberries.
General tasks
  • Now’s a good time to get your lawn mower serviced so it’s ready to mow again in the new year.
  • Move hoses into the shed to prevent them freezing and cover outdoor taps with bubble wrap.
  • Collect up plant supports which have done their job and clean them ready for next year.
  • Regularly check on your greenhouse heater as the temperatures continue to drop.
  • Insulate your greenhouse with bubble wrap.
  • Pick off dead leaves and flowers from greenhouse plants as they are susceptible to grey mould.
  • Deal with suckers coming from the base of trees and shrubs by pulling them off.
  • Make sure tree protectors are secure as rabbits may turn to bark as a food source in the winter.
  • We’re moving into lean months for birds, so keep any feeders topped up.
  • Clear debris from your beds and borders, including any foliage remains of deciduous plants; revealing hidden slugs and snails to hungry birds!
  • Raise pots off the ground (on bricks or special pot ‘feet’) to prevent waterlogging.
  • Keep off waterlogged lawns to prevent compaction; put boards on areas you need to access.
Cylamen hederifolium var. hederifolium f. albiflorumPlant of the month

Cyclamen hederifolium plants are flowering now and this white form (C.h. var. hederifolium f. albiflorum) is particularly attractive.

The leaves provide additional interest with their silvery colouring. Grown against a dark mulch background (eg composted bark) this plant really brightens a dark corner. Find out more...

Problem of the monthGrey mould on a pelargonium

Botrytis cinerea, or 'grey mould', can be a problem at any time of year, but right now it's a particular problem in heated greenhouses (as shown here on a pelargonium flower head).

Over the winter, when greenhouses often remain closed to maintain temperatures, grey mould can thrive in the warm, humid environment and damage overwintering plants. Find out more about preventing and getting rid of it...

In the news

Jack Frost, please save our sprouts!

Brussels sprouts growers are hoping for a cold snap in the run up to Christmas as the dry weather in early summer and continuing mildness has lead to crops being ready before they are needed. Growers hope that a couple of weeks of colder weather will stall the sprouts and keep them going ready for the Christmas festivities.

Garden Re-Leaf day garners celebrity support

The inaugural Garden Re-Leaf Day, in support of the Greenfingers charity, will be held on the 13th March 2012. The event, which garden centres around the country are getting involved with, will include a gardening quiz with questions provided by gardening luminaries such as Alan Titchmarsh, Christine Walkden and Toby Buckland.

The Greenfingers charity, supported by the garden industry, creates gardens for children's hospices.

Wood fuel scheme to help woodlands pay for themselves

Forestry Commission England has announced a £10m grant to improve access routes into woodlands and provide management support to boost the wood fuel industry. The aim is to increase sustainable wood fuel production which will generate jobs and help pay for the general management of the woodland.


Reduce needle drop from your Christmas tree

As the festive season draws upon us, many of us will be out and about over the next few weeks to find our perfect Christmas tree. Here are a few of our tips for buying a tree which won't shed its needles in days, and for keeping it that way:

  • Buy a pine (Pinus) or fir (Abies) tree rather than a Norway spruce (Picea abies). They are usually sold as varieties such as Nordman or Douglas. They may be more expensive but will be much less likely to drop their needles.
  • Tug at a couple of needles on your prospective tree. If they come away really easily then don't buy it as it's probably been allowed to dry out.
  • As soon as you get the tree home cut about 5cm off the base and stand it in a bucket of water in a sheltered, shady spot outside. When it's had a good drink you can bring it indoors.
  • Put it in a stand with a water reserve. Don't remove any bark to fit it into the stand - water is drawn up just under the bark so the tree won't be able to drink as much if you remove it.
  • Don't put it near a radiator or other heat sources as this will dry it out.
  • If it's a particularly dense tree trim a few branches off - the fewer branches it has the less water it'll need.
  • Check the water daily. If the tree dries out completely the base will seal over and it won't be able to take any more water up. This is the biggest cause of Christmas tree needle drop!

Read more about looking after your tree and find out our top tree decorating tips...


For gardeners' Christmas stockings

Not sure what to get the gardener in your life for Christmas this year? We've been out and about to find some inspirational ideas for festive gardening gifts, including:

  • Go all aristocratic in the allotment with Kew Gardens' regally crowned garden line.
  • Name your plants with slate-esque labels made from recycled coffee cups.
  • Give the gift of encouragement with a non-breakable 'Dig For Victory' mug.
  • Kit out the kids for the garden in all weathers with the new Gruffalo range of kids gardening clothing and equipment.

Find out more about these and other ideas in our blog...


Festive gardening delights to savour in December

A short selection of the gardening events happening this month...

  • 2nd December - Winter hanging basket workshop, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire.
  • 3rd & 4th December - 'Grand Bauble Hunt', Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire.
  • 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th 17th & 18th December - Where's Santa? Search for Santa through the gardens, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire.
  • 6th & 8th December - Christmas decorations masterclass, Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire & Arran.
  • 7th December - Make natural Christmas decorations, Ryton Gardens, Warwickshire.
  • 8th December - Put the garden to bed, Osborne House, Isle of Wight.
  • 10th, 11th & 18th December - Carols at the glasshouse, RHS Wisley, Surrey.
  • 12th December - Garden study morning: Making the most of winter plants, National Trust Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire.