Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 43 - December 2014
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Continue planting bare rooted hedges, trees, roses and shrubs.
  • Plant lily-of-the-valley.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from dogwoods, roses, spireas, deutzias, wisterias, forsythias, Virginia creepers, buddlejas and willows.
  • Take root cuttings from perennials such as oriental poppies.
  • Pinch out the tips of wallflowers to encourage bushier growth.
  • Give wisterias their second pruning of the year, reducing wide shoots to around 3cm.
  • Deadhead winter pansies to encourage more flowers.
  • Move vulnerable container grown plants to a more sheltered location (eg next to a wall).
  • 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 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.
  • Cut down asparagus fronds.
General tasks
  • Now's a good time to get your lawnmower 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
Plant of the monthCedrus libani

Growing to more than 25m tall, Cedrus libani isn't suitable for a small garden, but this majestic conifer can provide a beautiful focal point in an open area. If you don't have that sort of space available, this tree is also a good subject for the art of Bonsai. Find out more...

Problem of the monthSquirrel

Squirrels are considered 'cute' by some and 'rats with tails' by others. Whichever way you lean, they can still be a real pest in the garden. They can dig up and eat bulbs, bite bark off branches and eat shoots, buds, flowers and cones. They'll even turn their attention to gnawing garden ornaments and plant labels! Physical protection such as chicken wire is usually the best way to keep squirrels at bay. Find out more...

In the news

European Tree of the Year contestants decided

Public votes have decided the UK's contestants for the Environmental Partnership Association's annual competition. The English entry for the 2015 competition is the Major Oak, the Sherwood Forest tree which legend suggests was a hideout for Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Scotland's choice is the Lady's Tree in Perthshire, a Scots pine which is home to the country's oldest breeding osprey. Wales have voted for the Lonely Tree of Llanfyllin, Powys. This Scots Pine was blown down in the 2014 winter storms but, after sterling efforts to save it, is gradually reviving. The winner will be announced in February next year.

Sainsbury's rewarded for UK commitment

The National Farmers Union have awarded Sainsbury's for their dedication to UK suppliers of poinsettias. In 2013 100% of Sainsbury's poinsettias were home grown. Poinsettias are their top selling plant, with sales reaching £3m.

Sainsbury's have also extended their home grown strategy by becoming the first supermarket to stock tomatoes grown in the UK under LED lights. The out of season tomato 'Vittoria' are cherry tomatoes grown by R&L Holt in Worcestershire and will be sold as part of the supermarket's 'Taste the Difference' range.


Christmas gift ideas for all sorts of gardeners

It can sometimes be difficult to find the perfect gift for the gardener in your life, so we're here to help! This is our pick of this year's gardening gift crop, for experienced gardeners, casual potterers or curious kids.

A man holding a Christmas gift
For the hardened horticulturalist

A wormery is an excellent idea for a keen gardener, particularly if they don't have space for a compost heap. The worms will merrily gorge on kitchen waste and produce wonderful (and free!) liquid feed for the garden. We like the sturdy Wormcity wormeries which are available in a range of sizes.

There are some things which every gardener always needs more of, so why not buy them a trug and then fill it with all the gardening essentials. Gardening gloves (especially warm winter ones), twine, plant labels, plant label pens, fresh secateurs blades, hand cream and Jeyes disinfectant fluid are items that no gardener can have too much of.

If you're buying for the gardener who has everything, why not treat them to a new skill? Many open gardens around the country offer courses throughout the year on a wide range of topics. RHS gardens and university botanic gardens are particularly good sources. Send them on a course to brush up the basics of pruning or propagation, or perhaps go in depth with a course on hybridization or grafting.

For the casual gardener

For many people a garden is as much about relaxation and socialising as it is about growing the perfect paeony or cultivating an award winning veg patch. There are plenty of great gifts for those who prefer peaceful pottering in the garden.

'Plant Theatre' have created the perfect combination of gardening and relaxation in their 'Grow your own cocktail' kit. The kit contains seeds and pots to grow 6 different plants with instructions on how to use them to create 18 cocktail recipes. The plants include cucamelon, borage and lime basil.

Many designer names are coming into the gardening market, meaning that gardeners can truly garden in style. Big brands such as Orla Kiely and Joules are creating beautiful gardening accessories and equipment, including gloves, pots and kneelers. Or you can personalise a basic pair of gardening gloves to suit the recipient. Sew on a fur trim, red felt 'painted nails' or some festive tinsel to make your own original design.

Getting kids into the garden

Teach children about how plants grow with a pack of beanstalk seeds which reveal a secret message as they grow, by Beecycle. As the seed germinates a secret message (such as 'Merry Christmas') appears on the cotyledon (the first, embryonic leaf that appears).

Give the green fingered child in your life some great gardening ideas with the RHS 'Ready, steady, grow!' book of gardening projects. From growing salad to creating a fairy ring, the projects take from 1 day to 12 weeks to complete, suiting all attention spans!

If you're buying for kids who love Hallowe'en, then why not get them a kit to grow their own pumpkin ready for next October 31st? Scott and Co have a 'Percy the Pumpkin' kit which supplies everything needed, including carving tools for the final product. Alternatively, create your own kit with pumpkin seeds, pots, coir pellets and growing instructions.

Find more ideas in our blog...

Gift image courtesy of hyena reality at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What's on this month

With Christmas coming there's an abundance of Christmas fairs happening at gardens around the country, but there are also a few other events on offer...

  • 3rd, 10th & 17th December - Winter Early Opening for Photographers, Sheffield Park and Garden (National Trust), Uckfield, East Sussex.
  • 5th to 7th December - Illuminated Gardens, Powis Castle (National Trust), Welshpool, Powys.
  • 6th & 7th December - Come and Grow: Pruning Fruit Trees and Double Digging, Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Woburn, Bedfordshire.
  • 7th, 14th & 21st December - 'Winter Beauty in the Garden' Tour, The Trentham Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
  • 13th & 14th December - Talk: Garden Birds at Christmas, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 17th December - Specialist Walk, Bodnant Garden (National Trust), Tal-y-Cafn, near Colwyn Bay, Conwy.
  • 21st December - Pop Up Carols In The Garden, Saltram (National Trust), Plympton, Devon.
  • 26th to 31st December - Guided Estate Walk, Standen (National Trust), East Grinstead, West Sussex.