Now that the festive season has drawn to a close, my eagerness to be out in the garden is greater than ever! With the lengthening days and a brand New Year ahead, there’s lots to look forward to.
I find that the best way to garden is in short intervals, choosing small jobs with lots of tea breaks in between to warm up on those cold winter days. I’m a bit of a silent gardener in the winter months, with only my thoughts, and a hungry robin waiting patiently for me to loosen the earth in the hope of a juicy worm.
I’ve decided that the new gardening year will be a very well planned one. This is mainly because we are opening our garden for the National Garden scheme on the last weekend of April. It’s the earliest we’ve ever opened to the public, and getting ahead of the game over the next four months is crucial.
In order to help get us better organised, I asked Tom for a big whiteboard for Christmas. I’ve organised a meeting with Hannah and Rowan, and together we are going to plot out what needs doing over the next four months. Plotting and mapping out tasks week by week, will help us all focus and prioritise certain jobs around the garden.
When I think back to my early days of gardening, when I had a much, much smaller garden, I wouldn’t venture into the garden until mid January! Even then, I’d just potter - doing things like plucking out weeds from pots, cutting back perennials that looked a bit unsightly, and generally brushing up areas where leaves had blown into corners.
Now, I’m ordering my new dahlia tubers, and, providing there’s no snow on the ground, I’ll be outside tackling the smaller beds and borders near the house. I specifically choose easier areas to prevent myself from becoming too overwhelmed. Being outside, breathing in the fresh air, and getting all those little jobs done first, feels like such an achievement.
Here are 5 garden jobs that will be keeping us busy this January
- Prune climbing roses
- Chop back hellebore leaves
- Finish planting bulbs
- Prune apples and pears in the orchard
- Check on stored dahlia tubers
1. We have seven climbing roses in the garden (three of them are at the front of the house) that require some pruning and training during the winter months while they are dormant. The best tips I can give for this is to make sure you have some nice warm gloves and some extremely sharp clean secateurs. First, we cut the side shoots down to 2-3” from their stem, then remove any spindly and dead growth. Rremove any weeds from around the base to give about 18-20” of clear space ready for some top dressing in the spring.
2. There’s a window of time between November and January when hellebore leaves can be chopped back to the ground. I never usually seem to find the time to chop them all back in November and December! Now happens to be the prompt for me, because I know their flower buds are beginning to emerge. All I do is carefully cut all the old leaves back to the base, being very careful not to disturb the new buds.
3. This is the last call for planting up your tulip bulbs!! and if you’re anything like me, I can guarantee I will stumble upon some forgotten daffodil bulbs that I still haven’t planted. There’s no harm in just planting them as well and hope for the best!
4. Approximately 10 years ago, we planted an orchard of fruit trees inside the Walled Garden, a mixture of apples, pears, a plum and a cherry tree. Shamefully, I think we’ve pruned them all only about once in all that time! Even though they have produced lots of apples and fruit over the years, this year we are going to have a go at pruning them, starting with the apples and pears. Tom”s tip is to employ good sense, prune out dead and diseased wood, crossing shoots that rub each other (keep one unless damaged), and any vigorous growth you don’t want. Main branches can also be reduced by pruning last year's growth by a quarter.
5. If you have any dahlia tubers in storage it’s worth checking them, to make sure they are firm and in good health. I also like to start plotting and preparing the ground ready for replanting the stored tubers plus any new tubers that I can't help myself buying. If you don’t have any dahlias and are thinking about getting some now is the best time to order your dahlia tubers, in order to get the best and most popular varieties.
Whether you already are, or are thinking of, growing dahlias, I highly recommend this incredibly useful book!
- Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein -
Her inspiring instagram is -