Working as a Landscaper Gardener in Dublin the work still goes on in the garden even in January. It is even possible to add plants that will flower, and colour up these, short cold dark days.
. Over the next few weeks there is more to do in the garden that you would imagine, Apple and Pear Trees can be pruned , the trimming of shaped trees ,shrubs and hedges works well at this time of the year. You can also plant shallots and garlic up until February.
This is also an excellent time to clean out the greenhouse, making sure to clean the outside of the glass as you would be amazed at the amount of dirt that builds up and as result reduces the amount of light reaching the plants to there detriment. I would intend to plant Trees as soon as the Snow and Arctic conditions have lifted as this the traditional time for the planting of not just Trees but bare root hedging as well.
Nature continues its hard work and that also means that some brave plants will continue working even in the winter, still flowering to keep everything in check, so one can add far more colour to the winter garden than you might imagine, winter flowering plants, bright evergreens and some excellent berrying plants can make a huge difference…
When I visit a garden that needs to be re designed the first thing I consider is how it looks in the winter, and as a consequence will always select at least 30% or more of the plants, with this in mind I opt for bright winter foliage plants and add in as many Winter berrying and flowering plants that will lend itself to the design. I feel no garden deserves to be boring in the Winter.
Taking this to extremes I have gone as far as designing a garden with just evergreen green foliage plants and no flowering plants at all, and while there were many raised eyebrows, it has matured well. We used the classic Buxus or Box plant planted in effective swathes with miniature purple Myrtles and Hebe Sutherlandii complimenting them. I except this is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it does highlight how important evergreen plants are, in the middle of the Winter , as the garden has great life to it when most are looking pretty dull.
I would generally recommend taking a more adventures line and looking at the list of flowering plants that perform well at this time of the year.
The first essential for me is winter flowering Heathers varieties such as Erica Darleyensis or Erica Carnea, these varieties will not struggle in ordinary soil. Sadly many of the most beautiful Heathers will struggle in ordinary soil but not these boys. Select a low growing variety that grown no more than 30 cm high and plant in groups of at least 5 .They are available in white (my Favourite), pink and purple and from early January to March you can delight in there Winter colour.
Cornilla Glauca is a fabulous low growing evergreen shrub that did struggle last year in our arctic conditions, but if you are near the coast or have a sheltered area, then make a special effort to find this not so well known gem. Flowering in a scented bright yellow pea like flower and growing to more than 1 meter high this is a plant that will stop you in your tracks and in the right spot, as it can be laden down in flowers that commence in January and finishing in March/April.
Witch Hazel or Hamamelis Mollis is plant that is famed for numerous uses in skin care including sun burn and treatment for cuts. As a plant it is not used nearly enough and this a great mystery to me that it is not more popular, for some strange reason this it is not, a greatly loved plant. It is a very graceful shrub that has strong Autumn colour as its leaves turn gold, and then goes on to produces lovely spidery scented yellowy flowers, that covers in great style its bare branches and to boot makes an excellent edition to any flower arrangement. It does need a good space though as it can grow up to 4 metres wide and high. This is a plant that will impress your friends but make sure for best results that your soil is fertile and not to limey, planting it with Camellias will work very well especially in a woodland setting.
A plant I have only recently stated to grow is actually a cousin of the Witch Hazel, its common name is The Fringe Flower, the problem is its not that common in Ireland just yet, so you may need to search under it more formal name of Loropetalum Chinesis Rubrum its a sumptuous evergreen with burgundy leaves that produce a pinkish flower in February or March. It needs to be planted in a sunny location the brighter the sun the better the colour of the leaves. Like its cousin it does not like lime in the soil, if you are un sure of your soil type, just buy a soil test kit to determine there not expensive.
Finally the following are fairly easy plants to buy, but I find quite a few gardeners are unsure of there names. First up is Mahonia Charity it also brings yellow flowers to the Winter Garden; yellow is an important colour in the winter garden as it is the easiest colour to see, it needs to be very distinctive, to the winter bugs and birds that are and about. Mahonia is another tall evergreen shrub that will thrive in almost any garden. Viburnum Tinus is in full flower at the moment and has, handsome white flowers, it is a tall tough easy to grow shrub that likes plenty of sun. A little less common is Garrya Elliptica which is a bit of a mouthful so Silk Tassel Bush may run quicker of the tongue. Its silken slender catkins (flowers without petals) drape down from the bush in January/February. It is fast growing plant that as a consequence would make a very interesting hedge and does well in coastal areas. Finally the cheerful Winter Jasmine is another yellow flowering plant that can be trained as a climber on a sunny wall or along the ground and has a wow factor when in full bloom as the amount of flowers is substantial.
Remember to plant when there is no frost in the ground add some good compost and lots of Fine Bark mulch, follow basic gardening rules during the growing season, and next year things could be whole lot sunnier….in your Winter garden.
Eugene Higgins –Landscaper Gardener Dublin 2019