WINTER TOPICAL TIPS
Winter. You'd be wrong to think of winter as a bit of a wash-out in the garden, because it's the time when evergreens and coloured bark and stems come to the fore. Combine them with what's around in the way of winter flowers, and you have yet another set of new views at your fingertips
Winter heathers and Universal pansies are the obvious choice for bulk colour anywhere that the ground is reasonably well drained, but don't overlook bold ornamental cabbages and kales for containers - and towards the end of winter, there are the first coloured primroses coming on.
Witch Hazels (Hamamelis) are well worth having - their red or gold autumn leaves are followed by the first spidery, wintery flowers almost straight away. Several Mahonias - Mahonia japonica cultivars in particular - bloom from mid-winter into spring, with their delicious, lily-of-the-valley scented flowers. But the winter flowering shrub everyone knows is the old favourite, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), which is one of those invaluable plants for a north-facing wall.
KEY JOBS FOR WINTER
Now that the routine chores are finished for the year, this is your big chance to get on with any garden planning or redesigning, and to do any building jobs...... but don't undertake concreting if it's likely to freeze.
DECEMBER, JANUARY AND FEBRUARY
Continue cutting the grass if it is still growing in spells of mild weather - but don't cut it too short.
Prune fruit trees, figs and grape vines when they are fully dormant.
Protect containers planted with winter bedding, or all-year-round shrubs, from freezing solid. (Even totally hardy plants suffer when all the water in the potting compost freezes.) Stand them in a shed, garage or sun room, or lag the pots with bubble wrap, or plunge them to their rims in an empty bit of ground for insulation - before they freeze.
Sprinkle sand or grit on icy paths, but not salt, which harms nearby plants.
Take the opportunity to treat timber with wood preservative.
Erect trellis, posts or arches.
Order seeds from seed catalogues ready for spring.
Float a child's ball on a pond so that hot water can be poured over it in icy weather and a hole created to allow fish to breathe.
Put your feet up!
For more tips and advice see also the RHS Wisley Website January advice page