Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 19 - December 2012
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.
  • Deadhead winter pansies to encourage more flowers.
  • Move vulnerable container grown plants to a more sheltered location (eg next to a wall).
  • Trim back the foliage on epimedium ground cover ready for the new flowers and leaves to grow through in the new year.
  • Cut down chrysanthemums when they’ve finished flowering.
  • Protect tree ferns by covering their crowns with a layer of straw and tie hessian or fleece over the top to keep it in place.
  • 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.
  • Check on fruit and veg which you stored in the autumn to ensure there are no signs of rot or pests.
  • Prune greenhouse vines while they’re dormant.
  • Prune congested apple and pear trees, removing damaged and diseased growth then any badly positioned branches.
  • Cut down the fruited canes of autumn raspberries and blackberries.
  • Continue to take hardwood cuttings from currants and gooseberries.
  • Lift and divide big clumps of rhubarb, taking the opportunity to dig in some well-rotted manure.
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.
  • Regularly check on your greenhouse heater as the temperatures continue to drop.
  • Insulate your greenhouse with bubble wrap.
  • Put a heater or ball in ponds to stop the water freezing completely.
  • Open your greenhouse vents on warmer days so the air circulates.
  • Pick off dead leaves and flowers from greenhouse plants as they are susceptible to grey mould.
  • 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!
  • Fork over bare soil to expose pests and their eggs to the elements.
  • 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.
Cryptomeria japonica 'spiralis'Plant of the month

Cryptomeria japonica 'Spiralis' is a low maintenance, generally problem-free evergreen tree.

Its bright green foliage grows in attractive spirals around the stems.

It is slow growing, reaching its full height of 6m after 20 years or so. Find out more...

Problem of the monthChristmas tree needle drop

Needle drop can turn your beautiful Christmas tree into just twigs and baubles!

But you can avoid this seasonal stress by following our top tips on how to choose your tree and how to look after it once you get it home.

We've even got some ideas on how to decorate it! Find out more...

In the news

Ash dieback

Ash dieback disease has now spread to 11 counties, on 237 sites. DEFRA have drawn up plans to control the disease, including encouraging the public to get involved in identifying affected trees. Jo Thompson has also announced that her garden design for Chelsea next year will highlight the plight of native trees and the role which we can play in protecting them. Meanwhile a fungicide with the potential to protect trees from the disease is being reviewed for registration and could be available for professional use next year as an alternative to felling.

Victoria Park crowned the nation's favourite

Victoria Park, in Tower Hamlets, has beaten 1,424 competitors to win the accolade of the 'Nation's Favourite Park' in the annual competition run by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. The historic park, which was originally created in the 1840s and attracts 275,000 visitors each year, reopened earlier this year after a £12m redevelopment.

Climate changes in your garden?

Speaking at an RHS lecture, the Met Office's chief scientist, Professor Julia Slingo, has outlined some of the climatic changes affecting UK gardeners. The trend towards milder weather has extended the growing season, but these earlier growth patterns can put plants at risk when we do get the odd late frost. The reduced incidences of frost have also lessened its impact in controlling pests and diseases. While overall rainfall levels haven't changed, we are seeing more spells of very heavy rain which can damage plants and cause flooding. And the forecast? The Great British weather will remain changeable and as difficult to predict as ever!


Increase your Christmas flower count

Hamamelis mollisMany people enjoy the tradition of touring their garden on Christmas day to see how many flowers are out. In fact we know keen gardeners who have Christmas bloom records going back to the sixties!

So if you're keen to bring a little colour to your winter garden, here are our top tips for flowers who should (fingers crossed!) brighten up your Christmas:

  • Jasminum nudiflorum, the winter jasmine, will provide its small yellow flowers throughout the winter and is an amenable, albeit untidy, plant as it's happy in most conditions including poor soil and north facing sites.
  • Hellebores (eg Helleborus niger, the aptly named Christmas rose) should flower around Christmas time (or a little after) and will continue well into the spring.
  • The flowers of Sarcococca (Christmas box) aren't the most showy but they are beautifully fragranced. Try Sarcococca confusa for the best scent.
  • The bare winter stems of Viburnum x bodnantense burst into colour from November to March with tiny flowers. V. x b. 'Dawn' is particularly attractive with its pink hued blooms and sweet scent. Flowering can stall in very harsh frosts though, so you'll need a mild Christmas for this one.
  • Iris unguicularis (the Algerian iris) may make an early appearance in time for Christmas day with its cheery purple/blue flowers.
  • Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet) and Hamamelis (witch hazel) are similar shrubs which both flower in the winter. Wintersweet may take a few years to flower, so don't worry if your new plant isn't blooming. Witch hazel has an added bonus of wonderful scent.
  • You could be 'in the pink' if Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' flowers on schedule with its abundance of pale pink flowers.
  • The many varieties of Erica carnea (heathers) may be unfashionable, but they can bring a welcome splash of pink, white or red to a Christmas garden.
  • If you're looking for a climber then Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles' could fit the bill. The throats of the cream coloured flowers are spotted with deep red and they can do a great job of brightening up a deciduous tree over the winter.

The picture shows Hamamelis mollis (witch hazel) in bloom.


What's on this month

Brave the winter chill at our choice of the December garden events:

  • Daily from 1st December - 'Winter at Kew' guided walk, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, London.
  • 1st to 2nd, 7th to 9th & 14th to 16th December - Lantern Walk, The Alnwick Garden, Alnwick, Northumberland.
  • 1st to 7th December - Floral Extravaganza, Arley Hall and Gardens, Northwich, Cheshire.
  • 6th December - 'Winter Pruning of Soft Fruit' demonstration, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 6th December - 'Our Plot' talk by Cleve West, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, London.
  • 6th December - 'Festive Wreath Making' workshop, Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, near Morpeth, Northumberland.
  • 15th December - People's Postcode Edible Garden Tour, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
  • 25th & 26th December - Free garden admission, Chalice Well, Glastonbury, Somerset.
  • 26th December - Walk with our Ranger, Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hampshire.