A new month, and a new year in the garden. The winter so far has been wet, cloudy and mild and January weather can be challenging but if you look carefully beneath the layer of autumn’s leaves lying on the ground, you can see the green shoots of early spring bulbs pushing through the soil giving hope for a wonderful Spring display to come.
Now is the time to plan the garden for the year ahead and to think about what you want to use the garden for. Will it be for the family, entertainment, grow your own or low maintenance gardening using evergreen plants? If you have rather more time to spend in the garden, you could think about fruit and veg, hanging baskets and containers, which provide wonderful displays but do require more effort.
For year-round appeal a mixed border of spring bulbs, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and evergreens for winter, can provide something of interest to catch the eye each month. Visit a garden centre monthly to see which plants look inspirational at that particular time, with a view to giving gardens interest for 12 months of the year, rather than just spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Not much time for gardening?
If your time in the garden will be limited think about growing easy to look after shrubs such as Ribes, Forsythia, Spiraea, Philadelphus, Roses, Hydrangeas, hardy Fuchsias and ground covering plants to supress the weeds, all planted in the ground and very low maintenance once they are established after the first season.
To attract wildlife into the garden including birds, bees and butterflies you could create a small pond area or water feature, or plant flowering shrubs such as buddleias and lavenders, and single flowered herbaceous perennials so bees and butterflies can reach the pollen and nectar. Hardy annuals are easy to grow from seed, as are herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, Oregano and Sage.
When planning your garden, remember to take into account which parts are sunny and which areas are shady, and importantly, the soil type too. If you’re not sure, the Van Hage team are only too happy to help with advice.
Early colour in the garden
Some favourite flowering plants for early colour include Sarcococca with highly scented small fluffy white flowers, Skimmias with scented flowers, Viburnum Tinus with pink buds opening to clusters of white flowers in late winter and Helleborus niger called the ‘Christmas Rose’ although it usually flowers from January to February in the garden. Clusters of tiny snowdrops with their pure white blooms are a welcome sight and for many mark the start of a new gardening year.
Growing your own is fun, healthy and tasty!!
Seed potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic bulbs become available in late January, in time for planting in the Spring. When conditions allow, start planning your vegetable growing area, removing any perennial weeds and incorporating compost into the soil. For early sowing, cover soil with black polythene to warm the soil slightly. Fruit bushes such as gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants can be pruned this month.
Give apples and pear trees a winter prune. As a guide remove any crossing, dead and diseased or broken branches then shorten the previous year’s growth aiming for an open wine glass shape to allow for good light and air circulation through the branches. If the ground isn’t frozen or too wet, mulch round shrubs with a good layer of garden compost, leaf mould or well-rotted farmyard manure (sold in bags at Van Hage for convenience). This helps plants get off to a good start in Spring because it feeds the soil.
This is a great time to enjoy your houseplants and even in January there is always a vast range to choose from, some with tropical flowers such as orchids and anthuriums, some with lush tropical foliage, some upright, others trailing, with myriad leaf shapes and colours. Many have health benefits too such as cleaning impurities from the air because they absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Easy-care houseplants which can tolerate a wide range of conditions include Spathiphyllum or ‘Peace Lily’ which clears the air and does best in bright light to shade, and tends to flower better when slightly pot-bound.
Dracaenas and Yuccas enjoy bright conditions and average room temperature, and don’t like to be overwatered, especially in winter.
Ficus varieties such as F. Robusta, (the good old Rubber plant) or F. Benjamina the ‘Weeping Fig’ have been popular houseplants since Victorian times with their exotic foliage. They require a warm bright spot with no cold draughts, and the compost should be kept damp rather than allowed to dry out completely between waterings.
Striking Anthuriums are native to South America, growing in rain forests and producing brightly coloured waxy flowers with glossy leaves. They do best in a warm shady position such as a kitchen or bathroom, or you can stand the pot on a saucer of damp pebbles or moss for the extra humidity that they like.
Monstera Deliciosa, commonly known as the Swiss Cheese plant, is native to tropical forests and has lush, deeply cut leaves. It enjoys a bright or partly shady spot and needs some support such as a coir fibre houseplant support or ‘mosspole’ and you can tuck the aerial roots into this.
Other easy plants to grow include Cacti and Succulents, Chamaedorea, Palms, Philodendrons and Ferns.
Summer bulbs – in soon!
Arriving very soon will be the summer flowering bulbs such as Dahlias, Lilies, Gladioli and Begonias with their bright colours to look forward to in the summer.
And last but not least…
Keep putting out food and water for the hungry birds and ensure that your bird feeders are kept nice and clean.
The Plant team at Van Hage wish you all the best for the gardening year ahead and are only too happy to help with all your gardening queries, so please do come and visit us soon!