‘Vital’ task to prolong the life of your plants – ‘protects garden’

Monty Don shares tips for pruning fruit trees

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Despite what many may believe, creating an incredible winter garden is far from difficult – or expensive. Rowan Cripps, paving specialist and founding director of Infinite Paving, has resultantly shared nine excellent tips targeting ease and affordability, allowing gardeners to create their own winter wonder this festive season.

1. Think about shape and structure

From contrasting your plant shapes and sizes to adding features such as lighting, furniture and bird feeders, there are endless possibilities in regards to the design of your outdoor space. 

Rowan said: “You can additionally add man-made structures to create focal points, with small details adding depth and contrast. Shaping your pre-existing hedges and shrubs into shapes that complement your garden is easier than you may believe – you only need a hedge trimmer.”

2. Prune your plants 

Winter pruning takes place in winter, when plants are dormant. The aim of winter pruning is to encourage vigour so that certain plants don’t outgrow their space.

The expert explained: “Pruning is not only vital to prolong the life of your plants, but helps to ensure they look great, too. The removal of thin yet crowded stems and any diseased wood or leaves will rejuvenate your plant, encouraging growth when they exit their dormant season.

“If left alone, disease could spread and devastate your garden. A hard day’s work is worth it to protect your garden – but make sure to prune the right plants.”

Rowan said that pruning any plums or related species during the colder months can actually lead to the “spread of a disease” called silver-leaf, which will similarly “destroy any apples, apricots or cherries”.

3. Add winter blooms 

In winter, the garden often looks dark and dreary. But gardeners can bring life to them at this time of year with winter-flowering plants that bring a welcome touch of colour.

Winter flowering plants are those that flower between the end of November to the beginning of February. These include not only small plants, but trees and shrubs too. 

A common feature of many winter-flowering plants is their hardiness − most winter-flowering plants are tolerant of very low temperatures.

Rowan said: “Planting a selection of long-lived, hardy hellebores means you’ll have flowers year-round. From helleborus niger (also known as Christmas rose) to the helleborus orientalis double white spotted, there are over 20 varieties to choose from. With shades of pinks, purples, yellows and greens, you can immerse yourself in colour even in the darkest depths of winter.”

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4. Add fragrance 

Beyond structure and aesthetic value, the experts shared that gardeners can add fragrant plants to their garden for an extra edge. 

He said: “From honeysuckle to wintersweet, these striking and perfumed plants will have visitors stopping in their tracks.”

5. Use ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses are versatile, hardy and spectacular, bringing movement, texture and drama to gardens of all styles, nearly all year round. They can be woven through borders, used as a focal point, scattered through gravel gardens and planted in containers. 

Easy to grow, low maintenance and available in many beautiful shapes, sizes and styles, they are ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

Ornamental grasses are an invaluable addition to the winter garden. Waving gracefully in the slightest breeze, they add movement to gardens, but also colour since most turn shades of bronze, tan or russet in the cooler months to create an impressive display.

Rowan explained: “These grasses can be used to bring elegance, movement and sound to your outdoor space. Contrasting with any colourful flowers or green shrubbery, they also add brown and gold hues to your winter wonderscape. Once the frost hits they are further elevated, sparkling in the winter sun to provide a free light show.”

6. Add decorations

“Contrary to popular belief, a winter garden does not have to come at great expense, says the expert. Instead, gardeners can invest in affordable yet stunning objects to upgrade their space. 

Rowan said: “Fairy lights and lanterns are two of the most popular and affordable ways to create a stunning winter garden. You can additionally add ribbons, wreaths, baubles, tinsel and other Christmas decorations to the foliage around your space.” 

7. Make use of colourful containers

Adding containers and pots of every single shape and size can brighten up any garden regardless of the weather. The expert said: “Whether you upcycle a cheap pot found at the charity shop or create your own pot from clay or other materials, this is an inexpensive and fun way to add new life to a space.

“Once filled with stunning plants, these receptacles make for a stunning display. They are moreover easy to maintain and can be easily relocated for a revamp of the garden.”

8. Grow your own vegetables

Rowan said: “Many of your favourite vegetables are actually cold-resistant, meaning that winter is the perfect time to advance your green thumb from flowers to food. These crops will add variation into the landscape and cut down on food shopping costs, so it’s a win-win.”

Kale, lettuce, carrots, turnips, celeriac and Brussels sprouts can all be grown in a winter garden, meaning the vegetable element of your Christmas dinner can actually come straight from the garden.

9. Attract wildlife 

According to the expert, one “inexpensive and sustainable way” of keeping a garden beautiful is by leaving seed heads in place during the winter. He said: “Whether it’s ornamental grass or flowers, these spaces can become habitats for overwintering birds – so be sure to add a bird feeder or two. Other wildlife that may grace your garden includes toads, ladybirds, and active winter bumblebees, making your garden feel like a paradise.”

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