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?


    1. Hello Lynn, our forsythia is budding up though I think it will still be a little while before it opens. the snow drops are out, as is the Sarcococca. I’ve not been out in the garden for a little while so I’m not sure what else is waking up. My new job is keeping me very busy at the moment but it’s quite exciting and it’s nice to have some money coming in again to spend on the garden!


  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.


    1. Thanks, Jean, looking out at the garden we do seem to have a lot of greenery, with all the rhododendron, azaleas, a fan palm, mediterranean plants (rosemary, bay, cypress, lavender), the camellias an a huge pittosporum and several more. These stand out much more after the deciduous and herbaceous plants die back. I’m luck (on unlucky) that I can garden most times of the year unless it is very wet. It’s not pleasant dealing with heavy clay soil when it’s saturated and when the ground squelches!


    1. Thank you Jayne, we have some winter interest at the moment, but there is a new large border waiting to be made that I will devote to winter flowering and winter interest plants. A “Winter Garden” of sorts.


  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.


    1. Hello Jason, don’t let the greenhouse fool you, it’s a tight squeeze, you have to walk side-ways, everything is wet and you’ll never walk out without freezing cold water dripping down the back of your neck when you’re least expecting it!


  4. Your garden just grows more and more spectacular! I was in London for a few days in December for my daughter’s graduation and wished I had time to visit.


    1. Thanks, Tammy! I hope you had a great time with your daughter’s graduation. It’ a shame there wasn’t chance to catchup but there wouldn’t have been much to show you!


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