A NEW year in the garden and everything feels so different at this time of year.
At the end of the year it is all about tidying up, putting things to bed for the season, and making good of the year just past.
In the new year, it is all about looking for signs of new life, what is producing flower and scent or emerging from the soil, and with every week that passes there is something new appearing in the garden, giving us hope for the growing year ahead.
It is always amazing to behold all the changes in the garden when it is not visited for a few days, even at this time of year. Snowdrops are starting to push through and if there is one plant that heralds the imminent arrival of spring, it has to be these little beauties.
Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’ is an early flowering snowdrop that is reliably in flower on Christmas Day, with no exception this year.
Witch hazel, another early flowerer in the garden at new year, also bears a beautiful scent, it does require a neutral to acid soil so take this into consideration before planting.
It has been an unusually mild winter thus far, but there are a few months to get through yet so let us not get complacent! Frosty weather is necessary to help the fight against garden pests like slugs, as it kills the over-wintering eggs in the soil.
A period of cold is also necessary for some plants to trigger germination of seeds and flowering, the seeds of sloes, hawthorn and oaks all need a period of cold before they will do so successfully.
Do keep an eye on any tender plants that have remained out of doors during cold snaps, and have the horticultural fleece close to hand for some extra protection that may be needed for banana plants, cannas, tree ferns or gingers.
If there are still bags of bulbs hanging around, get them into the ground as soon as possible and they will still to perform this spring. As long as bulbs are still firm, they are still viable and will grow, perhaps producing a later flowering than if they had been planted earlier. Completing the planting before the new year can sometimes be a challenge with all of the festive goings on.
There is lots of pruning to be undertaken early in the year, with roses of all descriptions, apples and pears, blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries all requiring attention while dormant.
After pruning, a generous mulching with farmyard manure will ensure a productive harvest in the summer months. It’s a good time to get the fruit department sorted and also to consider planting new fruit trees or bushes.
Growing fruit is very rewarding and the taste from our own produce is quite superior. Growing within a fruit cage is the ideal as birds can be quite good customers also as the fruit ripens. It’s best to plan a cage at the outset to accommodate heights and spreads of different fruit within if possible, but it is also possible to establish a cage around existing fruit, using wooden posts and netting. Consider head room and being able to harvest with ease when doing this.
In the last few years, having a not so tidy garden for the winter months has become more acceptable, as the value of cover for insects and small birds has become a more considered element of gardening and biodiversity. The result is that a full clear up of the garden is not done at one time and cutting back is staggered, ensuring seed heads remain, hollow stems create natural bug hotels and some of the rotting vegetation will naturally melt back into the soil, composting in situ.
The reality is that tidying up is not completed until just before the tulips begin to appear.
Helleborous are taking centre stage right now with their nodding heads emerging from mounds of tired leaves. Cut the old leaves back to make way for the flower display and mulch with leaf mould if available, this will show off the beautiful and long lasting blooms to best effect. The birds will also have a great time tossing through the leaf mould in search of snacks!
It’s time now to consider what seeds to order for the year ahead. Ordering seeds has become tricky since Brexit, with a lot of UK firms no longer delivering to Ireland.
A number of Irish and European seed companies can be used and the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) compiled a list recently.
It is inconvienent not to use seed companies we may have dealt with for years, but perhaps some new varieties or types of vegetables will catch our eye in these new catalogues.
It’s always an exciting time of the year when considering what to grow and planning sowings when the garden is quiet and resting below the ground. It is a reflective time, when thoughts on what worked over the last year are considered along with what new combinations can be experimented with for the coming year.
I hope to grow some more flowers that can be used in dried flower arrangements this year, having grown the straw flower last year, and drying the flowers for use in seasonal arrangements. Statice, and Gophrema globosa ‘Rose’ are two on my list for this year.
In the vegetable department, I want to grow more vegetables that can be stored easily over winter, like onions, which can be dried and plaited for use in the winter months. Whatever your plan is, enjoy putting it together. Happy New Year!