Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
The snow could not have come at a better time as a decent snow shower arrived around 8am on Sunday, January 24 and stayed long enough to have some fun throwing snowballs and building a snowman and it melted fast after that which, probably suits almost everyone except younger schoolchildren.
Gardening activity is at a low ebb and will continue until the temperature and light improves but,
there is the odd day or two when it is like spring and this does encourage some activity outside.
We have a country garden so it tends to be larger than most and with it comes the extra maintenance of rooting out invading weeds such as briars, willows and ivies in particular and, this we do during the winter months and it is something which keeps us warm too. Otherwise, we create or maintain outside structures such as fencing, seating, trellis or pergolas and sort out pots and containers for the growing season ahead.
I am always delighted when there is something to see in flower at this time of year and quietly marvel at how well they not only survive but thrive under our winter conditions. When you check it out, you will find that there is a large enough range of plants that are at their best now and many are small growing plants. At the top might be snowdrops which are in flower and are as tough as old boots and they can be encouraged to increase in area by lifting any clump 15cm (6”) or wider and dividing it into four smaller pieces before planting them again. Other small plants flowering now would include winter aconites, outdoor Cyclamen hederifolium, bergenia, helleborus and winter heathers. The nice thing about these smaller plants is that they can be fitted into odd available spaces around the garden.
Medium and larger plants will need an allocated space so needs a bit of planning. The only tree which flowers from around late October until April is the autumn cherry-Prunus autumnalis and, while a small tree will reach 5m (15’) wide and high which might not suit many gardens but, you can then substitute this option with a larger growing shrub which can be trained as a small tree and these plants can include Camellia, Viburnum bod ‘Dawn’, Corylus ‘Contorta’ or ‘Red Majestic’, Hamamelis, Mahonia japonica, Viburnum tinus and Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
Whenever you are choosing plants for any particular period, do not overlook added attractions such as fragrance. Why not try and introduce some scented plants so that there is some around at any time of the year. One of the best for winter fragrance is Sarcococca confusa, also known as Winter Box and this produces a very powerful scent which carries a long way and you might have to use your nose to find the plant as the flowers are small but pretty white spidery shaped and partly hidden under the shiny evergreen leaves. Other scented plants include Lonicera fragrantissima,
Viburnum fragrans or bodnatense ‘Dawn’, Hamamelis or Witch Hazel, Mahonia and Daphne.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The cold weather has led to a free for all at the bird feeders and table. The birds need food and their hunger has meant that all types of birds are feeding at the same time, without social distance or squabbling taking place. It is such fun watching the antics and a variety of foods such as niger, wild bird seed, fat balls and peanuts will attract the widest variety of birds, some of which otherwise are rarely seen. We feed in cold weather but stop when the weather warms up around April.
If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me at [email protected] or (051)384273 and if of general interest I will include it in a later newsletter.