The branches may be bare, but there is much to do in the garden during the winter months says horticulturist, Ian Hodgson.
The weather is chilly and the garden is murky, but now is the time start planning ahead to what your garden could become in 2017. To help make winter gardening easier, Ian Hodgson, a Kew Gardens-qualified horticulturist and landscape architect, shares his ideas for looking after the garden.
“I’ve always been interested in the natural world,” explains Ian. “After leaving school I started my career in horticulture with an apprenticeship in ornamental houseplant production and then became a student of horticulture at Kew Gardens, which opened my eyes to the astonishing world of plants.”
As a mature student, Ian studied plant sciences, landscape architecture and design at Sheffield University before becoming editor of the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, The Garden for 18 years. He is currently editor at large for Garden News and Garden Answers magazines and has written books on gardening.
Ian reveals what we should be doing now in the garden ready for next year.
A garden is never finished; you are always editing it until you get it just right and then you change it, because you’ve had a better idea! Pre-preparation is the key word. You need to plan in advance what you want to do, research it, buy the plants and then put them in position in the winter months or in spring. It’s very satisfying when it all comes together and a combination of plants really works.
Right now you can plant ornamental alliums or onions to flower from early summer onwards. There is an astonishing range of types, from huge ones with flower heads almost a foot across, others like exploding fireworks and others that are tiny and excellent for border edges. They are also great for pots and containers and they attract bees and other pollinators.
Don’t be in a rush to cut down all the spent flower stems of perennials as they offer homes to over-wintering wildlife, such as ladybirds and lacewings. The frost and snow on the stems also creates subtle and atmospheric effects. Remove them in late winter, just as the fresh new growth appears.
When planting, for a more naturalistic style use drifts of plants in threes, fives or sevens, weaving them in and round each other and repeat key groups around the garden to create harmony and balance.
Take a look at Ian’s latest book, New Wild Garden: Natural-style planting and practicalities by Ian Hodgson (Frances Lincoln, £25).