If you are planning a new hedge, you will find that nurseries are full of bewildering varieties of bare-rooted hedging stock at the moment. A little bit of research into the best type of hedge for your garden will pay dividends in the long run. If you’re not sure which would be good in your garden, a good rule of thumb is to look to see what grows well in neighbours’ gardens and copy! Beech, for example, is fussy about soil conditions. If you want a similar hedge, Hornbeam is a good alternative for a heavy clay soil. A little knowledge about your soil type goes a long way before planting anything. It’s well worth taking the trouble to buy a soil testing kit from your local nursery and finding out which type of soil you have – sand, clay, chalk or loam, or a combination. Next, decide on the sort of look you want to create with the hedge. If you want a formal evergreen screening hedge, you really can’t beat Yew for a classic, classy look. For an informal evergreen screen, consider Photina ‘Red Robin’; the young shoots in spring are a vibrant red (hence the name) and contrast well with an under-planting of bright yellow daffodils.
Wisterias require winter pruning by the end of February at the latest. With no leaves on the plants you can see exactly what needs to be pruned. Shorten all the shoots back to two or three buds from the main stem. This encourages new flowers to give a spectacular display in the spring. Virginia creepers, valued for their autumn foliage colour, have a habit of working their way into window frames, doors and gutters so cut them back hard now to save damage being done. They grow back quickly so don’t be gentle with them!
Sweet pea seeds can be sown this month on a windowsill to get them off to a great start in spring. They have a long root run so it’s best to sow them in special sweet-pea tubes filled with peat-free compost. To help with germination soak them in water the day before sowing.