Discussion this week focused on festive winter displays as well as jobs to do in the garden now. Helleborus niger or Christmas rose is a favourite for indoor table displays as it flowers between December and March. They are fully hardy but can be slightly more difficult than other hellebores to keep going in the garden. Whilst indoors they need to be kept well watered and not too warm and can survive a couple of months of being inside. Their flowers are unusual for hellebores as they are upturned rather than nodding. They are best planted in clumps in the front of a sunny but sheltered border. They can also be planted amongst spring bulbs.
Remember to cut any old leaves from hellebore plants in the garden as this will greatly improve the look of the flowers when they emerge on the plant in spring. Now is also a good time to propagate Globe artichokes or Cardoons, young shoots with roots can usually be found among the old stem bases in late winter/early spring. These can be carefully pulled or dug away and replanted elsewhere.
Also check sweet peas that have been autumn sown in pots as they can get leggy and will need the shoots pinching out to promote bushier growth.
Hardwood cuttings can also be taken now and – we looked at cuttings taken from a Cornus (dogwood). Hardwood cuttings root more slowly but they need little attention. Choose stems that are firm and hard but not too thick. The length of the cutting should be at least 6″. Make a cut straight across the stem just under a node and the second cut at an angle above a node, making an angled cut will ensure you know that it is the top of the cutting. Moisten the base of the cuttings in water and then make a slit trench with a spade. Sprinkle in some grit to ensure good drainage and insert the cuttings about 4″ apart only leaving a third of the length of the cutting above ground. Firm the soil around them and water in well – ensure that they are not allowed to dry out during the summer months and also make sure you keep the weeds at bay. It can be useful to take such cuttings to establish a hedge in an allotment for example.
Shrubs apart from Cornus that easily root from hardwood cuttings are Buddleia, Forsythia, Privet, Philadelphus, Ribes, Hydrangea, Viburnum, Roses, Salix etc
Cornus stems are great for winter interest and colour now, they need to be cut back in April to retain their vibrant colour.
Activities in the garden this week:
- Sue and Julia made a decoration for the garden house side door
- Clare and Mary did some bed edging – using up more of the pine tree that was cut down in the summer
- Vicky continued to build her twin obelisks for the veg beds
- Some veg seeds to be sown in modules – spinach and spinach beet. Ruth also planted out some more wallflower plants
- Val and Sharon continued with pruning the fig tree
- More bulbs were planted in top garden, hanging baskets were sorted, paper white bulbs were planted and a table display with bulbs and a hellebore was put together.
The garden is looking very festive with lots of material being gathered for wreath making.