January marks the beginning of a new year, full of promise in the garden
Despite the low temperatures and short daylight hours, there is much to enjoy. It won’t be long before snowdrops make their first welcome appearance heralding spring.
Get ahead of the crowd and take your lawnmower in for a service this month. If you leave it until spring lawn repair shops will take much longer and generally charge more because they are so busy.
Most winter flowering plants, although flowers are small, have very good scent in order to attract the few insects that are around. If scent in the garden is important to you, try to find space for one of these: Lonicera fragrantissima or L. x purpusii; Ddaphne mezereum; Viburnum farreri or V. x bondnantense; Mahonia japonica or M.’Charity. Place them somewhere that you will walk past frequently. Showy, but lacking in scent, are winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), Viburnum tinus and Garrya elliptica with its long grey catkins and evergreen leaves; ‘James Roof’ is the best variety, if you can get it.
Now is a great time to plant bare-rooted roses and trees as they offer much better value than pot-grown varieties.
If you are planning a new hedge, you will find that nurseries are full of bewildering varieties of bare-rooted hedging stock. Avoid the ubiquitous Lelandii, which is really far too fast growing for most of our gardens. There are so many alternatives. If you’re not sure which would be good in your garden, a good rule of thumb is 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, if you have 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.