Winter Musings

The winter is a quiet time on the blog, but that doesn’t mean it is a quiet time in the garden. Gardening work shifts from reclaiming wild areas and creating new borders to general clean-up and maintenance – hardly the kind of stuff to get excited and write about but it does need to be done.

Plants haven’t quite died back in the greenhouse, it’s still a riot

The winter season feels like it is being squeezed while the growing season just gets longer and longer, leaving less time to do those jobs that can only be done while the garden is supposed to be “sleeping”.

Roses need to be pruned and tied back before they start re-growing, the borders need mulching before the spring bulbs push their way through. Clematis should be pruned before they all start re-budding and the border edges need to be sharpened up before the grass starts regrowing.

The Clematis seed head is proof that not all Clematis die immediately in my hands

My full time job takes up all the meagre daylight hours in winter, relegating the gardening work to the weekends. It’s also dependent on the weather being at least reasonably civil and the ground not squelching wet. Sometimes these factors align, sometimes they don’t.

Last year’s clean-up schedule was tight and some of the jobs – mulching in particular – were late and not quite finished in time, this year will probably turn out to be the same. I was delayed weeding the borders last winter and ended up doing it in February, when the top few inches of soil were frozen solid. It made for some very numb fingers despite thick gloves.

Extending the beech hedge where there was once bamboo

A recent “progress’ job as opposed to a “maintenance” job is planting the bare root beech to extend the existing hedge over the ground where bamboo was once. Wary of the bamboo having all but exhausted the soil there, many barrow-loads of manure and compost were added and well-tilled in, along with a great deal of bonemeal and Growmore. I’m hoping that the winter rain will top the water up in this strip and get the beech off to a good start.

Elsewhere in the garden the clean-up, maintenance and pruning jobs continue, the compost heap is now very full with leaves, clippings and herbaceous plants that have died back. The council compost bin is full of weeds and grass from tidying the border edges. My plan of attack is to simply work on each border systematically until spring arrives and it’s too late.

Delphinium Crescent with dormant delphiniums

Oddly, it is quite nice to see the soil surface and border edges again. They disappear in late spring and are only revealed again once everything dies back. Despite this, the garden doesn’t feel bare, there are so many shrubs and trees, as well as evergreens that the borders maintain a strong sense of structure and interest; it’s in no way, flat.

The garden is also filled with birds, loud ones. They’re hidden by foliage in summer, but now I can see them in the branches of the trees and shrubs. Of course, the robin is my constant companion while gardening this time of year, it watches and sings while darting in and out of my working area as I prepare the garden for another great new season.

Happy 2019


  1. Wow Sunil, you are WAY ahead of me. Actually that isn’t true because I basically do nothing in the garden until the forsythia blooms in the spring. Then again my garden is tiny and one or two days of hard work will do it. You have much more to tackle. I love the clematis seed heads! And I am jealous you have delphiniums. I have to treat them as annuals here. Happy New Year!! How is the new job?


  2. Happy New Year, Sunil. The bones of your garden look lovely in winter, and I’m dazzled by all the green. We have had snow on the ground here since mid-November, so all outdoor garden work is halted until the snow melts in April. Pruning shrubs like roses that are supposed to be pruned while they are dormant in winter is a real challenge here because they are buried under snow. By the time the snow melts enough to get to them, they are often breaking dormancy.


  3. I envy your mild winter weather. On a typical winter day, the ground is frozen here through the middle of March at least. Your beech hedge sounds like it will be great. And your greenhouse looks like a wonderful green retreat.


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