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Enjoying the garden in December


December can be a wonderful month in the garden. Although the days are short, on those clear, frosty, sunny mornings it can be a real pleasure to be outside and much better for you than snoozing in front of the fire! As these days are few, treasure and make the most of them – there’s always something to do in the garden.

Plants can be so attractive in the frost. The bright stems of dogwoods, underplanted with a winter creeper, such as Cornus Alba ‘Siberica’ and Euonymus fortune ‘Silver Queen’, give a festive glow to the garden, especially in the low, early sunshine. Although colour is rare in the garden at this time of year, it’s not completely bleak. Plants such as the winter flowering heathers, Jasminium nudiflorum and Hamamelis mollis should be in flower throughout the month. As an added bonus, most plants that flower in the winter are heavily scented to attract the fewer insects, so make the most of that and place them near an entrance to enjoy their perfume more easily. Take a few shoots from winter flowering shrubs, such as Virbunum x bodnantense and Prunus xsubhittella ‘Autumnlis’ and put in water in a cool place indoors. Soon the buds will open and the beautifully scented flowers can be added to the Christmas decorations.

Gardening in the winter can be more relaxed, having none of the urgency of the spring and summer months. You can take it at an easier pace and, whenever conditions allow, dig over a border in preparation for the spring. It’s unlikely you will be alone in the garden. You’ll probably have your local robin alongside, sitting on your spade while eagerly waiting for you to uncover a worm, giving a festive air to the garden. It’s a timely reminder to feed garden birds now as the weather gets colder and food becomes more scare.

You can do much to attract birds into the garden by planting shrubs and trees with berries that will attract them. My holly tree is full of red berries at the beginning of December but is usually stripped bare by Christmas Day. If you want to keep some for decoration, bring some sprigs in in early December and store in a cool, dry place ready for the festive period.

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