December: let's find some time to enjoy a moment or two in our gardens
Hang on… how on earth have we got to December so quickly? After such a busy year it is all too easy for us to let December rush by without us giving our gardens any thought or attention. Of course, many of us will have lots of other priorities over the coming weeks, but it would be a shame to not take some time to enjoy all that the December garden can offer us.
If nothing else, a few tranquil moments in the garden can serve as a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of December. Regardless of the time of year, our gardens can provide us with a perfect opportunity for a little quiet reflection, so let’s try to take the time to wrap up warm and venture outside this month (even if it is with a glass of mulled wine in hand). We may be pleasantly surprised…crisp frosty mornings, a dusting of snow if the children are lucky, and clear bright sunny days- what could be better?
This month's star plants
Just as in November, our evergreens are definitely the star plants this month. With a little thought and careful planning, evergreens can give any garden a fantastic sense of structure, colour and vibrancy. Hollies, for example, are wonderful right now, offering gloriously glossy leaves and shiny red berries. Some hollies will only fruit if male and female plants are planted relatively closely together. Others are rather more self-sufficient, and planted as single specimens can make wonderful focal points in the December garden. My all-time favourite holly is Ilex ‘Golden King’ (pictured above) with its wonderfully green and gold foliage and upright growth habit. A great addition to any winter garden.
Elsewhere, we have the fabulous evergreen shrub Skimmia ‘Rubella’. It is real favourite of the garden centres at this time of year, boasting lovely tiny white flowers which burst open from clusters of red buds. We also have Sarcococcoa hookeriana var. digyna, a plant with a rather easier common name of ‘Christmas box’, and long dark green leaves, colourful stems and highly scented white flowers. The colourful winter stems of Cornus ‘Sibirica’ (dogwood) also provide an eye-catching burst of festive colour; they really stand out when there is some snow around.
And don’t forget the structural evergreens such as Buxus sempervirens (common box) and Taxus bacatta (yew). Both of these versatile plants make excellent hedges and topiary, and both add a wonderful sense of elegance and class to any garden. They also really come into their own on frosty mornings, and the Taxus can provide attractive red berries if it hasn’t been clipped too recently.
Finally, and on a truly festive note, why not try our hand at growing mistletoe? Viscum album is a really interesting plant, and it is possible to introduce it to our gardens if we’ve got a suitable mature tree.
This month's garden jobs
With ‘free’ time often so short in December it is handy that there are few truly essential tasks this month. It is, however, a good idea to keep things generally tidy. This really helps to avoid a build-up of pests and diseases and so I always try to rake up any remaining fallen leaves as regularly as I can. It often feels like a pretty thankless task if we have a spell of windy weather, but it makes a massive difference practically and aesthetically. Heavy accumulations of fallen leaves can be particularly troublesome on lawns because they quickly starve the grass of the light it needs to survive. If we have some storage space it is worth bagging up some fallen leaves- they produce an excellent soil improver when they have rotted down. Depending on the species of plant, it can only take a few months to produce really useful well-rotted material and it costs nothing more than a little bit of time.
To aid the festivities, many of us may choose to decorate our garden to add some extra Christmas sparkle. Low energy outdoor lights can be fun and really add to the magic for children, and whilst I personally prefer a restrained and subtle approach to outdoor Christmas lighting, we should all do whatever makes us happy. Walking the dog on a late afternoon is one of my great December pleasures, and always presents the perfect opportunity to enjoy twinkling lights cascading from trees and shrubs.
Christmas wreaths can be easily made with cuttings from our gardens, and always add a welcoming touch to front doors. We love to use the traditional holly and ivy for our wreath here at Tythorne Garden Design HQ, but there are lots of other plants to use so maybe it’s time we experimented a bit more?
Enjoy all that the December garden has to offer you, and I hope you and yours have a very happy and relaxing Christmas.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.