Least we forgive keen gardeners and landscapers across the UK for putting their outdoor spaces aside for the winter months. After all, most of the plants are resting, and the bright colours of summer evaporating throughout autumn into a smudge of soothing greys, and warming browns.
The general advice given to gardener is to plan ahead throughout spring, summer and autumn in order to create an eye-catching spectacle for the following year. But that’s not to say that you can’t get out in the winter months to make the most of the changing seasons.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at a few things you can do in the garden this winter to create some seasonal interest and make the most of those crisp winter days.
Bring Textures to the Fore
Of course, as we all know, deciduous trees such as beech, birch and ash lose their greenery during the autumn, leaving exposed trunks and branches.
If you have deciduous ornamentals in pots, then utilise the interesting patterns and distinctive textures and bring them forward to create a winter focal point.
Otherwise, if the trees are in the ground, you could arrange the rest of your garden around your trees to ensure they are easy to spot across the landscape.
A few good examples include the likes of Japanese maples, hazels, Himalayan birch and elder.
Many trees and shrubs available in the UK will hold onto their berries throughout the autumn and winter.
Not only does this offer a splash of colour across your landscape, but it’s also good for any birds and mammals searching for a winter food source.
Holly is a great example we’re all pretty familiar with, particularly so due to it’s association with the festive period. The bright red berries contrast beautifully with the lush greens and will remain all through winter.
Hawthorn, rowan, and dog rose are fantastic too.
Evergreens are ideal in a winter landscape for the very reason that they remain green throughout the colder months. Despite the name though, evergreens are available in a range of colours, such as greys, reds and even blue tinged leaves.
Evergreens not only make good sense from an aesthetic point of view, but they also offer protection for winter birds like robins and finches.
Although they make a lovely green splash across the landscape during winter, they make a nice contrast against the yellows, red and purples of any of our native flowers during any season.
As the weather starts to cool it’s quite important to trim back any shrubbery or hedges, particularly the woody stems which thicken over time and can eventually have detrimental effects on the plant if not dealt with.
That said, you should certainly do some research on the species of whatever you’re trimming since they are a vital refuge for a variety of wildlife and hacking away at them may cause damage to the plant and destroy an important ecosystem to boot.
On a basic level, hedge rejuvenation means pruning old stems and bringing back the branches just enough to create opportunities for new shoots to grow in spring. Again, the extent of this process will depend on the species and how it has been pruned previously.
When we talk about rejuvenating old plants, this also means removing any plants that may be detrimental to the overall landscape.
By this time in the year most weeds will have gone over, which means you get to the root and remove them more easily. Similarly, any ivy or brambles that have spread will be far easier to spot without the green leaves of the plants around it.
Pruning Other Plants & Trees
At this time of year, it’s not just shrubs and hedges that need to be cut back – other plants and trees require the same treatment.
Since all wild nesting birds are protected by law, it’s advisable to avoid working on plants and trees between March 1st and July 31st. By waiting until the cooler months, you can ensure that you aren’t disturbing any nesting birds.
Some plants require pruning in the late autumn, some during mid-winter and others in the very early phases of spring. If you decide to wait until spring to complete your pruning, you may find that you’ve missed a chance to give all of your plants the best possible opportunity to thrive.
Different trees, climbers, and shrubs will all have different needs throughout the seasons, so bear in mind that:
- Plants that require pruning in late autumn/early winter may be those which need protection from high winds or those which won’t withstand pruning during heavy frosts.
- Some plants need to be dormant to be pruned to reduce stress.
- Almost all plants are pruned during the winter, simply because they don’t offer much aesthetically through this period.
- If this is the case then these plants need to be pruned at the right time to avoid new shoots sprouting during the early spring frosts.
- Some plants may need pruning to prevent competition for sunlight with other plants.
- Pruning in winter helps to create a visible splendour come spring.
Some of the most popular plants available lay dormant during the winter months, which is why they’re often purchased as bare root plants during this time – roses are a good example.
Winter is often a good time to plant these bare roots plants, or even potentially move established plants from one area of the garden to another.
Providing you aren’t attempting to plant whilst the soil is frozen or waterlogged than you can transport those dormant plants to bloom during spring in another part of your garden.
Prepping the Soil
Winter is a good time to get the soil into a good position for the spring – particularly in plant beds and vegetable plots.
Once you’ve removed all the weeds and any plants you no longer desire, dig over the area and incorporate any organic matter and mix it into the soil. It doesn’t need to be perfect – in fact, it’s better to leave the soil in clumps.
By doing this, the winter frosts will freeze the surface of the soil and then thaw again, breaking down clay and improving overall structure and drainage.
Once the colder weather takes hold, you’ll be able to see the basic structure of your outdoor space, and this makes it far easier to see what landscaping repairs need to be undertaken.
These could be simple things that you’ve not necessarily noticed during summer, or bigger things that you’ve been waiting for the quiet of the winter months to complete.
As an example, you could take a look at the following:
- Inspect shed and green house rooves and windows.
- Installing a water butt.
- Starting a compost heap.
- Repairing any damaged fencing.
- Cleaning or repairing any ornamental pieces, such as fountains, features and ponds.
- Installing trellis and supports.
During the growing season, which starts in early spring, you may find you don’t have the time for landscaping maintenance, so now is the ideal time to get this done.
Prepping for Spring in Winter
Winter is a great time to step back and assess what might be missing from your space, and where you might be able to move around your current fixtures to fill any gaps in your landscape. This doesn’t necessarily mean plants, but could mean a trellis, a bench, a water feature or something decorative in a spot that might benefit.
Of course, the winter is typically darker, wetter, windier and colder. These conditions are ideal for the formation of disease and weeds – particularly when decomposing leaves and other debris lands on the grass or in areas where you intend to seed. They can also make pathways and patios incredibly slippery, especially after a frost. This is why it’s important to rake the leaves and dispose of them in your garden bin.
Weeds will continue to proliferate during milder, wet winters, so it’s important to keep on top of this. Once your spring bulbs and flowers start to bloom it will take a lot longer to weed.
It makes good sense to keep the garden tidy throughout the winter, since many weeds are seasonal and as any good gardener knows, weeds create more weeds.
Winter is also a great time to stock up on the various elements you’ll need for the next year too.