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Gardener's Diary December 2006


Sixty eighth edition -  December 2006 


Wonders of the Winter Landscape: Shrubs and Trees to Brighten the Cold-Weather Garden

Have you done all your garden chores yet, or have you left a few jobs for a nice winter`s day? The greenhouse and sheds in our garden will get tidied and cleaned on days when I feel the need to be outside, and there are still some tulip bulbs that will get dug in before the end of December. Of course there is always tidying up to do, and the fallen leaves to put on the compost heap rather than leave them on the ground to make a soggy mess that is both unsightly and dangerous. (Our garden waste collection service from the council has ended now until the spring..)  If you don`t have a compost heap put the damp leaves in bin liners tied at the top. Make several holes in the bags and leave them in a sheltered place. By next year they will have rotted down to beautiful leaf mould to put on your borders. This is the most colourful Autumn there has been for quite a few years, and some trees still have leaves clinging tentatively to their branches, in wonderful shades of yellow, red and orange.  Apparently it is due to the very warm October and November we had.  But isn’t it lovely to shuffle your feet in crisp fallen leaves in the forest and woodland paths?

Don`t forget to keep the bird food topped up over the holiday period. If you are going away ask a neighbour to do this for you. If your pond freezes over make sure you keep a hole in the ice for the fish to get oxygen, which is another job for the neighbour..

My garden really comes into it`s own at this time of year with lots of flowering and evergreen shrubs, late chysanthemums, bright red barks and the hellebores foetidus and corsicus that are about to burst into flower.... The brilliant white bark of the Silver Birch Jacqmondii is always stunningly bright.. During summertime there is colour everywhere in the garden but during the winter months the rare sight of a flower is a joy to many people. I always try to buy Azaleas, Cyclamens, winter flowering Hyacinths and a pot of Narcissi, just to keep in the kitchen to cheer me up in the deepest winter. They can be planted in the garden after flowering, to enjoy in future years. It is important for me to see colour and flowers in the winter garden..

Christmas Decorations

Christmas is almost upon us once again and those creative gardeners among you could make your own stunning original decorations, which are both satisfying and fun to do...  First get hold of some florists`oasis, green plastic coated garden wire, gold and silver decorative Christmas spray in aerosols, some glitter, spray on snow and some vases or other waterproof containers. Then collect small pieces of holly, ivy, delicate and interesting looking twigs, dried chinese lanterns, a variety of evergreen shrubs and cones. Set aside some of these on a newspaper and spray them with the different colours and the snow. This is best done outside. Practice with different colours and textures. Before they dry sprinkle a little of the glitter sparingly onto a few of them. When they have completely dried you can go ahead and be really creative, making wreaths for the front door, table decorations and arrangements in vases. Oasis can be cut to different shapes and then hidden by the greenery. Use the wire to keep the stems in position. Finally, add ribbons and other Christmas baubles for a professional touch. Add candles for the table decorations and add water to the finished items to keep the greenery fresh, providing you haven`t put Christmas electric lights in them. 

I used to enjoy making these decorations, and I sometimes gave them away as gifts together with sweets and truffles I had made...

Last minute stocking fillers suitable for gardening enthusiasts

The Winter Garden: Create a Garden That Shines Through the Forgotten Season

?         Bulbs ready planted in decorative containers, from the supermarket.

?         Amaryllis

?         Gardening Calendar or book

?         An azalea or cyclamen from the supermarket

?         Gardening DVDs

?         Garden ornaments

?         House plant watering can

?         Decorative plant labels

?         A packet of their favourite seeds

?         Bird feeder

?         Bag of Spring flowering bulbs

?         Heated propagator





An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  


Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..

Jobs for the month


  • This is an ideal time of year for planting shrubs, roses, hedging and fruit bushes

  • Cut down and clear away autumn flowering perennials such as chrysanthemums

  • Divide and move any perennials that have got too big and weak.

  • Mulch flower borders

  • Rake up leaves

  • Add compost and well rotted manure to vegetable gardens and dig it in as preparation for next season.

  • Protect tender perennials with fleece or put them under cover

  • insulate outdoor taps and turn outdoor water supply off


Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



The Yellow Book: NGS Gardens Open for CharityRHS gardens

Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-


Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new and any special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



Visit the Eden Project




The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...



Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Some of your emails are not getting through to me; please read below:

**  Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming

Please tell me which country you live in as knowing the climate can help me solve your problem. Your current email address is necessary as my replies are occasionally returned to me as undeliverable.. PLEASE TITLE YOUR EMAIL 'GARDEN QUERY' OTHERWISE IT IS LIKELY TO BE PUT IN THE SPAM FOLDER BY MY ISP **



Useful reading:-

"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

Amazon book - A year at Kew  Amazon book - Gardens Through Time: 200 Years of the English Garden Amazon book - RHS Plants for Places: 1000 Tried and Tested Plants for Every Soil, Site and Usage (RHS) Amazon book - RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening: RHS Bi-centennial Edition (Royal Horticultural Society)
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