Home Ground

I know that Christmas, not gardening, is on your mind at the moment but a little gardening is a guaranteed way of working off the turkey and Christmas pudding. I know that the winter weather is not always enticing but we must look for the positives and try to forget, or at least ignore, the negatives.

To see some colour in the garden during the cold winter months is very uplifting. In fact I would regard colour at this time of year as being essential. Plants that really shine during the winter are heathers and in particular the lime tolerant types of Erica carnea.

Heathers are excellent ground cover plants and provide interest with both their foliage and flowers. Their leaves range from pale green, grey, and golden to russet and bronze. From experience, I have noticed that the golden foliage types are not terribly happy facing into the salt winds. In other words, a little shelter will be necessary in seaside areas. After the high winds of earlier this month, I think that shelter for not only the garden but the gardener will be much sought after this winter. Those of you who are interested in table quizzes will probably know that there are more than 200 different kinds of heaths and heathers. Their flowers come in red, pink, and white. They are easy to care for and keep weeds down. Plant in groups of three or more (odd numbers please ) for greatest visual effect.

Other plants that really come into their own at this time of year are the Cornus types, commonly known as dogwoods. They are insignificant enough during the summer months but really come into their own once they lose their foliage in late autumn. Dogwoods have spectacular red or yellow barks. I’m sure that many of you have remarked on their beauty, growing in groups alongside dual carriageways and motorways. Besides the obvious benefits of the drivers’ penalty points system, driving at a slower, safer, pace will now provide you with the opportunity to take in the beauty of the countryside, including of course the many dogwoods en route.

Being Christmas (or almost Christmas, that is ) I cannot leave out the holly. Hollies, otherwise known as Ilex aquifolium, are a must have in the garden. Being evergreen is an obvious plus, but the beauty of their red or yellow berries makes them particularly attractive and uplifting as darkness draws in and the days get colder.

One of my particular favourites these days is the Skimmia japonica growing outside my sitting room window. It is laden with red berries and definitely glowing with Christmas cheer. I’m sure that my visitors, the winged and feathered ones that is, are eyeing it up and waiting to feast on it. C’est la vie! After all, the garden is for everyone — all creatures great and small.

I won’t take up any more of your time this week as I’m sure that you are eager to go out, no, not Christmas shopping, but gardening. What did you think I meant?

Happy gardening and happy Christmas!

Anne.

Garden checklist

(if you feel like a little exercise this holy season )

• Plant bare-rooted trees.

• Tidy up herbaceous plants.

• Stake and tie trees.

• Service garden machinery.

• Take hardwood cuttings.

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