Now that the temperature has dropped it’s tempting to lock up the garden shed and head indoors, but a few hours of preparation now for the cold winter months gives you a head start when spring arrives, so that you can get busy planting rather than clearing out plants that haven’t survived the winter.
Continue tidying the borders
Continue clearing dead plants and cutting back perennials (but don’t be too tidy – seed heads are good for insects). Clear away debris that may harbour slugs and snails and rake up the last of the autumn leaves and make leaf mould with them. Once tidied, spread manure or a mulch to protect plants from hard frosts.The worms will work it in for you and your plants will come back happy and healthy next spring.
Fork over vacant ground, turning soil several times to expose any soil pests to birds.
Move containers to more sheltered positions close to the wall of the house, and use pot feet to aid drainage. Bubble wrap or horticultural fleece helps prevent contents from freezing solid. Protect potentially tender plants, such as hardy fuchsias, with a deep mulch. Truss up tree fern foliage with straw tied around with string. Check stakes and ties on newly-planted trees.
Clean out gutters, downpipes and drains. Clean and disinfect water butts.
Wash your tools and sharpen those that need it. Dry thoroughly and oil metal parts to prevent rust. Oil wooden handles with linseed oil.
Remove all rubbish from the greenhouse and disinfect the staging. Scrub off any shade paint and ventilate to dry thoroughly. Wash pots and seed trays.
Sheds, Fences and Decking
Inspect for loose boards and posts. Check roofing felt and make minor repairs.
Lag taps and water pipes. Roll up the hosepipe and put it away
Clear ponds of leaves and rubbish and add to the compost heap. Float a rubber ball on the surface (should ice form you can remove it and leave a breathing hole for fish, or melt a hole by standing a hot saucepan on the ice for a few minutes).
These quintessential winter evergreens are perfect backbone garden plants, evergreen, unfussy, suitable for any soil and and providers of fruits and berries for hungry birds. Both plant families offer a huge range of varieties. As Christmas approaches, it’s traditional to celebrate the season by bringing armfuls of foliage and berries into the house, perhaps to make a wreath for the front door, or table decorations and flower arrangements.
Hollies will grow in shade but prefer some sun. All hollies are spiny, so are a good choice for a secure boundary hedge. They’re typically either male or female, so it’s essential to plant a partner nearby to ensure they bear berries. If you only have room for one, then choose a haemaphrodite such as Ilex Aquifolium Pyramidalis.
The yellow berries of Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ (f) display beautifully against its glossy dark green leaves, whereas the Ilex Silver Queen (m) (male – don’t be fooled by the name) has creamy-white margins and dark olive-green centres.
For variegated foliage and abundant red berries Silver Milkmaid (f) offers light green leaves that have a central cream splash.
Ivies will flourish in shady areas where few other plants thrive, and can be grown as groundcover, as well as up a support. They can also be grown in pots, tubs and hanging baskets, under shrubs or as a climber to cover dead tree trunks or the walls of outbuildings. Once established, they’re a doddle to grow but need to be kept in check with regular pruning to prevent them from becoming invasive.
Sulphur Heart is a variegated Persian ivy with heart-shaped leaves splashed with yellow. Mature plants bear large green flowers in autumn. Hedera Helix White Wonder offers variegated leaves ranging in shades of rich green to white, and Goldchild has grey-green leaves with bold yellow margins, perfect for lightening up a dark corner.
Now that winter is on its way it’s time to start thinking about tidying up your garden and getting everything ship-shape before the colder, wetter weather sets in. For many of us, this will involve fairly routine work; a bit of hedge trimming, maybe repainting some fences or just dragging the table and chairs into a shed.
But now is also a great time for more hands-on maintenance: weak trees, dead branches or dense hedges can all be chopped down to provide extra fuel, or safeguard against severe weather damage.
In preparation for the winter it’s worth considering what jobs in the garden need doing and what machinery you might need. Featured below we give a few suggestions for what we see as well priced, reliable choices for some winter essentials.
It’s a good idea to have a decent chainsaw on-hand at all times, just to make sure that you can tidy up overhanging branches or clear fallen trees after a storm. Chainsaws can also be used to cut firewood into manageable chunks, and they’re certainly a lot more convenient than an old-fashioned axe!
Picking out a good chainsaw can be challenging though; particularly if you’re not sure how much power you need, or what size of saw blade is best suited to light maintenance and clean-up.
Despite its relatively small (38cc) engine, this fantastic little saw is more than capable of tackling medium-large branches. It’ll happily chomp its way through your log pile too. Fantastic for prepping a pile of firewood as it’s so easy to use.
It’s light – probably much lighter than you’re expecting – weighing just 4.7kg (or 5 bags of sugar). It features vibration-dampening technology as standard, which makes it nice and easy to manoeuvre, and ensures that you can use it for longer tasks without suffering through the usual combination of aching wrists and a sore back.
The Husqvarna 236 is nice and easy to maintain too: Simple tasks like chain replacement can be carried out with the help of You Tube tutorials, and the only other routine tasks are the usual filter replacements and oil changes. Of course, you can always bring it to us at Melksham Groundcare Machinery for any chainsaw servicing.
This saw is slightly larger than the Husqvarna 236, which does mean that it:
Uses more fuel
Makes more noise
Weighs a little more
That said, the Husqvarna 135 will carve through wood like a hot knife through butter, and it’s more than capable of tackling any task you throw its way. It does boast some user-friendly features too: The pull cord has been optimised for home use and it has the same vibration-dampening technology you’ll find on the 236.
Husqvarna have incorporated their own, special X-Torq® technology in the engine too, which means that it produces less emissions than comparable 40-50cc petrol chainsaws, so better for the environment!
All in all, the Husqvarna 135 is a great choice for people with a lot of trees to manage, and it’s often used for light commercial applications too.
It’s also worth thinking about generators this winter: Volatile weather, heavy snow and high winds can keep the power off for hours at a time, particularly if you live in a rural area. It’s a good idea to have some kind of backup in case of emergency.
A petrol generator might seem like overkill, particularly if you’ve done just fine depending on the national grid in the past. That said, climate change, increasingly stormy weather and a definite up-tick in the number of localised power outages have made portable petrol generators much more popular in recent years, and it’s worth considering one if you value your peace of mind.
This lightweight generator has a smaller fuel tank, but it still puts out more than enough power to keep things ticking over during a power cut. It’s also got an 11 hour run time (at 25% load) so it’s great for longer outages too.
Better still, the Sprint 2200 has many safety features including a low oil, auto cut off and a durable roll-cage. It only weighs 45kg too, which makes it a great choice for those of us that need something nice and portable.
The Briggs & Stratton ProMax 7500EA is a great choice for small-scale commercial applications. It’s lightweight, which makes it very portable, and it also has a sturdy roll cage that will protect it from knocks and bumps.
This generator is user friendly and has a fairly generous 15l fuel tank, which means that once you’ve got it hooked up, you’ll be able to fill the tank, and then just sit back – confident that it’ll kick into life as soon as the power goes down. This particular option boasts things like an automatic engine shut off, which protects the generator when it runs out of fuel. If you’re looking for a quick way to get power in a secluded spot, there really isn’t a better option.
If you have a log-burning stove or an open fire, any clean-up tasks offer a good opportunity to stockpile some extra wood for those long winter months. If not, log splitters will help to cut down on waste, and provide a convenient way to break up unwanted wood for easy disposal.
Log splitters will power through your wood pile in minutes, and they’re also great for post-storm clean-up, particularly if you have a lot of large branches to dispose of.
Picking out the right log splitter means you’ll need to choose between electric and petrol models and decide what engine size you’ll need to split your firewood.
This log splitter is designed to chop large logs into firewood, and it’s a great option if you have a wood burner or open fire. Thanks to it’s powerful, 230v electric motor, it’s capable of producing around 4 tonnes of splitting force, and it’ll cope with any log that’s around 37 cm in length, so will split down any small to medium sized log in a matter of seconds.
Because it’s electric, it’s also quite quiet, and doesn’t need to be fuelled before use. As with all electric products, it’s also a bit easier to maintain than it’s heavy-duty, petrol-guzzling cousins.
The KHS 3704 also comes with integrated wheels. This might seem like a small detail, but when it comes to moving 35kg of heavy machinery between your garage and your wood pile, these little extras really do help to make the whole task more manageable.
This heavy-duty machine is a lot larger than the AL-KO, but it does offer a whopping 7 tonnes of splitting force, which means that you can use it to chop up anything from large branches, right through to small tree trunks.
Because it has a 4-stroke petrol engine, it’s also a great option for use on large gardens, where getting electricity routed to a problem area can be a struggle. Of course, the petrol engine does come with its own downsides – including the need for regular refuelling and slightly more arduous maintenance requirements – but if you want something that will definitely get the job done, these downsides are far outweighed by the machine’s pros.
The Mitox LS700BS also features unique, four-way splitting technology, which means that it can turn large logs into manageable pieces of firewood much quicker than a more traditional machine, with a two-way splitter.
It’s probably safe to say that the Mitox LS700BS won’t be of interest to most domestic gardeners, but if you have a lot of trees to manage and you want the ultimate in log splitting technology, the Mitox LS700BS is definitely worth serious consideration.
If you have any questions about the log splitters, chainsaws or generators that we’ve mentioned here or indeed any other machinery, we’d be more than happy to answer them.
To reach us, just ring us on 01380 828961, or use the contact form on our site. A member of our team will get in touch with you as soon as possible, and we promise that all of our advice is offered obligation-free!
As winter approaches you could be forgiven for letting up on garden chores, preparing to batten down the hatches and hunker down indoors for the next few months, perhaps to muse over your garden successes and disappointments earlier in the year, and to think about what you want from your garden next year.
If one of the things you want is the addition of a pond or water feature, this is the ideal time to do any construction and digging, whilst there isn’t a lot of routine gardening to be done. A pond can then be left to mature for several months before introducing plants, which are in any case not usually available until late spring.
Almost every garden can be enhanced by the addition of water in one form or another, whether it be a fountain, cascade, pond or a simple half-barrel planted with miniature water lilies. It brings an extra dimension to a garden, a focal point and an opportunity to introduce style, movement, reflections and the soothing sound of running water.
Factors to take into consideration may be the requirement for a submersible pump to circulate the water, and you will probably need a safe electricity supply, although solar-powered units are becoming increasingly popular. The safety of small children is always a concern around water, but there are ways to mitigate risk; ponds can be covered in strong mesh, and a simple bubble fountain that doesn’t contain standing water is a safe option.
We’ve chosen some inspirational designs to help you decide which watery option suites you best.
As we approach the end of the year many garden creatures start to seek sheltered places to over-winter. Providing suitable sites for overwintering is an easy way to support them.
Build a log pile. A pile of logs, twigs and leaves in a quiet corner will provide a habitat for species from beetles to hedgehogs that help to control pests naturally. A shady area of the garden is best.
Don’t be too tidy. Leave some perennials uncut until the spring. They look great covered by frost and provide food for birds throughout the winter.
Put up nesting boxes and feeders.
By putting up a few insect homes – bird and bat boxes, feeders designed to attract bees, butterflies, insects, hedgehogs, frogs and others – you’re giving wildlife a helping hand and safety to feed and hibernate.
Feed the birds. Put out nuts, seeds, scraps and fat balls, especially in winter when there’s not much food around and later on in spring when they’ve chicks to feed. Place feeders close to shrubs and trees for cover and near to the house, so you can watch them.
Use mulches to control weeds and be careful with chemicals. This will encourage pest-eaters like frogs, toads and song-thrushes.
Help the hedgehogs. Leave holes in fences or newly constructed walls so hedgehogs can come and go from the garden. If you want to feed them try plain pet food, not bread or milk. Check long grass before strimming, compost heaps before forking and bonfires before lighting!
Depending on which way you look at it, November is either approaching the end of the gardening year or the start of the new one. Once the autumn leaves have fallen the evergreens come into their own; having been the backbone of the garden all year round, in November they make a colourful backdrop to seasonal flowers, frosted grasses bare branches, and the coloured stems of shrubs.
This is peak season for easy-to-grow evergreens such as Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree) which at this time of year displays white flowers and pink fruit both at the same time (the fruits are from last year’s flowers). A compact shrub or small tree, it’s undemanding, thriving in sun or light shade, and will tolerate pollution.
Fatsia Japonica (False Castor Oil Plant) looks exotic but is equally unfussy. Left unpruned it will grow slowly to a large shrub but it’s not difficult to prune to the desired size. At this time of year the glossy dark green leaves are joined by clusters of fluffy cream flowers followed by black berries. Best in light shade.
Eleagnus ebbingei (Silverberry), is another garden stalwart. It’s silvered mid-green leaves are completely silver coloured on the undersides. It bears fragrant creamy-white flowers. A large shrub which is useful for hedging, it will grow in any soil (except boggy) in sun or light shade.
With autumn fast approaching, the chance of waking up to find your lawn buried under a thick carpet of caramel-coloured leaves is growing day by day and a great many of us will eventually find ourselves battling a mountain of them.
It can be tempting to let autumn leaves sit where they fall – particularly if you’ve got to rake them up by hand – but leaves can do a lot of damage to your lawn. They create an impenetrable layer of dead matter that stops light reaching the individual blades of grass; stifling winter growth, and forcing your lawn to burn through its stockpiles of extra energy.
Worse, they trap moisture, and create the perfect environment for mould, diseases and fungi to flourish. Articles published on The Spruce and the Nutri-Lawn blog show that leaving leaves piled on your lawn is one of the worst things you can do, and there’s every chance that ignoring drifts of autumn leaves will force you to reseed come spring.
There are a lot of different options, and many of the more expensive blowers boast a plethora of special features that can be a little overwhelming at first glance.
We’ve put together this in-depth guide to highlight the pros and cons of each type, the different kinds of garden they’re suitable for and give our top picks and recommendations for each type of device.
Blowers or Vacuums?
Both types of machine are designed for the same purpose; namely removing leaves, lawn trimmings or rubbish from your garden.
The only difference is that some machines are just designed to blow leaves into a large pile, while others (namely, the vacuums) can also do the reverse: sucking leaves into a large bag attachment, which can be emptied wherever is most convenient for you.
Blowers aren’t necessarily the lesser option: They still produce a nice, neat pile of leaves that you can bag up, or run over with a mulching lawn mower.
That said, vacuums are slightly more convenient for the average gardener, and they do take a bit of leg-work out of lawn clearance. They do tend to have a shorter run time (if you’re looking at battery-powered machines) or increased fuel consumption, but they are the most efficient option, and they can be worth paying slightly more for if time is a factor in your decision.
Ultimately, the choice between blower or vacuum will depend on your priorities as a gardener.
Handheld Blowers and Vacuums
These lightweight devices are designed for those with smaller gardens. They’re the most affordable option, and they’re a great pick if you:
• Struggle with heavier machines
• Just want to keep paths and other small areas leaf-free
• Have a restricted budget
• Want something that’s easy to maintain
They do lack staying power though, so you might want to look at backpack or wheeled machines if you’ve got a larger lawn.
Cordless or Electric Handheld Blowers and Vacuums
Electric or cordless/ battery powered handheld blowers are the lightest option. Some models weigh as little as 8kg, making them an ideal choice for anyone that’s put off by the thought of lugging a heavy machine about.
Cordless or electric blowers are the most neighbour-friendly option too. They still make a fair amount of noise, but they’re decibels quieter than the bigger, petrol machines which makes them a great choice if you’re trying to keep noise to a minimum, or want to clear up leaf piles early in the morning.
And then there’s the environmental impact too: Because they’re less powerful, they use a lot less energy, and produce a lot less carbon. If you’re eco-minded, handheld, electric blowers and vacuums are the best possible machines to use – particularly if you pick a device with an energy saving, lithium ion battery.
The only downside – aside from their lack of ‘oomph’ – is the fact that you’re restricted by the amount of charge their batteries can hold. This varies according to the model, but it’s rarely more than enough for an hour of continuous use. If you have a medium sized lawn to clear, this might mean that you have to wait for the device to recharge in order to get the job done.
Corded, electric blower/vacs are a better option for those in need of a longer run time.
Cobra’s BV2600 is probably the best-possible handheld electric blower for people with small gardens. It packs a lot of punch for a handheld model, it functions as both vac and blower, and it’s even got a built-in impeller for shredding leaves.
This model boasts a long, 10m cord too, which does help to mitigate some of the challenges associated with normal electric blowers.
For those of us that really don’t want to deal with a cord, the EGO Power Plus Cordless Leaf Blower is a great alternative. Using one of EGO’s own 2Ah lithium ion batteries, it’ll run for 75 minutes on a single charge and it’s still got a fairly impressive 440m/h average airspeed.
Petrol hand-held leaf blowers and vacuums
Petrol powered, handheld leaf blowers and vacuums tend to pack a bit more punch and they can generally clear an identical space in about 2/3rds of the time.
They can still be lightweight – particularly when you compare them to the wheeled or backpack options – but they do have a much longer base run time than cordless and they also mitigate the need for extension cables or cord management.
There are some downsides though: They’re a lot noisier than electric/cordless options, and they do produce a bit of pollution, which might be a concern if you’re very eco-minded.
They also require refuelling. This isn’t a major concern, but it is worth considering the logistics as you’ll need somewhere to store backup fuel.
As with all petrol vs. electric/cordless machine comparisons, it should also be noted that petrol machines do require a little bit more maintenance.
Although more of a commitment they are also more effective, and it’d be remiss of us to neglect the fact that petrol-powered, handheld blowers and vacuums:
• Get the job done faster than their electric counterparts
• Can cover a larger area
• Allow for more aggressive leaf clearance
If they’re well maintained, petrol powered blowers/vacs do tend to have a slightly longer lifetime than their electric cousins
The Mitox 280BVX is a very good blower vac. Perhaps a bit pricier than the average handheld blower we think it’s worth the investment. Its 25.4cc motor packs a lot of punch, and it also incorporates some really nifty technologies, such as a built-in mulching blade, and anti-vibration technology for added comfort. It is a particularly reliable blower/vac. If you’ve got a small-medium sized garden and you’re hunting for a true workhorse, this is worth considering.
Backpack Leaf Blowers and Vacuums
Exchanging a bit of mobility for a bigger engine (or motor); greater power reserves and a significant increase in ‘oomph’, backpack blowers and vacuums are the tier above handheld machines in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
These products are ideally suited to people with medium-sized lawns (0.5 acres and above). They’re also a great choice for people trying to clear up leaves on uneven terrain, which can be difficult for wheeled blowers or vacuums.
Are backpack blowers harder to use?
Often, people make the mistake of thinking this type of blower or vacuum is for commercial users but this is not the case – they are easy to use, and there’s certainly no need for special training before you strap one on.
The choice here is between petrol-powered or cordless backpack leaf blowers/vacuums.
Cordless Backpack Leaf Blowers and Vacuums
Freedom from cords provides the machines in this range with much more flexibility and allows them to be carried far from buildings or outhouses.
With many of the same advantages associated with their handheld cousins, they are slightly quieter than their petrol counterparts, and they tend to be lighter too.
This makes them a good compromise for people that don’t want to carry heavy machinery on their backs, but do need to clear more space than a handheld blower/vacuum could reasonably be expected to cope with.
They also require a good deal less maintenance than their petrol counterparts, and they are also eco-friendly.
Thanks to recent advances in battery and electric motor technology, the modern machines in this range can push a huge amount of air per-second, and some of the high-end options will give the average petrol powered, backpack vacuum or blower a good run for its money.
Our top pick in this category is definitely EGO’s cordless backpack blower. This product does not double up as a vacuum, but it is incredibly light, very comfortable, and easy to use. It’s no slouch in the power department either. In fact, it has a max air speed of 192 km/h, which is more than enough to whip up a veritable tornado of air.
Petrol-Powered, Backpack Leaf Blowers and Vacuums
A good petrol powered, backpack blower/vacuum can clear a medium-sized lawn in around half an hour, and they’re a great choice for people who are trying to keep a bigger space clear.
They’re also the go-to device for people with a lot of deciduous trees. If you’re sick of clearing your lawn once or twice a week in the autumn months, these powerful devices are the best possible option.
There’s no mistaking the distinctive roar of a petrol-powered, backpack leaf blower. They make a lot of noise, and they are guaranteed to wake your neighbours if you start running them in the early hours of the morning, but they do also move a lot of leaves!
Modern advances in engine technology have made most petrol-powered blowers and vacs relatively efficient and most options tend to be quite cheap to run. They do require a little more maintenance though.
In terms of usability, it’s worth noting that petrol powered machines are often heavier than their electric/cordless counterparts. That said, the weight difference is normally just a couple of kilograms, and if you’re comfortable lugging a cordless backpack blower around, the petrol options won’t feel all that different.
Petrol powered, backpack leaf blowers and vacuums are also the best all-rounders, and they are probably the most popular choice for people with medium sized lawns.
The Mitox 760BPX is definitely our top recommended petrol-powered, backpack blower. Like all Mitox products, this particular machine is very reliable, and it’s also fitted with a 75.6cc engine producing a max air speed of approximately 205 mph.
It might not have vacuum functionality, but it does pack a real punch, and it will blast the leaves right off your lawn.
Wheeled Leaf Blowers and Lawn Vacuums
These devices are the go-to option for those with a couple of acres to maintain.
Most wheeled leaf blowers and vacuums are designed for commercial use, but they’re also very straightforward for homeowner use.
Due to the need for large amounts of air displacement, the overwhelming majority of wheeled leaf blowers and vacuums are also petrol driven.
The two main types of machine in this range are wheeled leaf blowers, and wheeled lawn vacuums. We’ve explored the pros and cons of each below:
Wheeled Lawn Vacuums
As the name suggests, these machines are designed to be pushed across your lawn; hoovering up leaves in much the same way that your vacuum cleaner sucks up dust and debris from around the house.
Wheeled lawn vacuums tend to pack a lot more punch though. The majority boast 150cc motors, which gives them enough power to suck up huge drifts of autumnal leaves in a matter of seconds.
They’re also relentless; running for hours at a time, and demanding little more than a guiding hand to direct their progress.
These machines can look intimidating but are actually very user friendly, are easy to fuel and also to maintain.
These devices are built to last as well. Most come with 2+ years of warranty, and the engines are designed with heavy use in mind.
If you have a lot of space to keep clear, there really isn’t a better option. They have huge, high-capacity bags that can cope with lots of excess leaf matter, and they will leave your lawn gleaming after a single pass, which makes them a very efficient choice.
If you’re looking for a good garden vacuum, we highly recommend Billy Goat’s “Little Billy Goat” . This machine is fitted with a 158cc engine, which gives it plenty of staying power. It’s lighter than some other lawn vacuums though, which means that it’s nice and easy to manoeuvre. It’s a popular choice for both homeowner and commercial user.
Wheeled Leaf Blowers
These devices are slightly harder to use properly. At heart, they’re really just a large (and very powerful) fan strapped to a motorbike-sized motor. They’re meant to blow huge drifts of leaves into nice, neat piles, and when they’re employed correctly, they’re incredibly effective.
They can make a bit of a mess though – particularly if you’ve never used one before.
That said, if you’ve got too much leaf matter for a wheeled vacuum and you need to keep a big space nice and clear, these machines are exactly what you’ll want in your corner. They move a tremendous amount of air, and they can clear an acre or so of space in around half an hour.
The only things you’ll need to watch are the tremendous amount of noise that they make and the risk of accidentally scattering a leaf pile across your lawn if they’re turned towards a pile edge-on.
The Billy Goat F902S Petrol Leaf Blower is the stand out option in this product category. It’s a self-propelled machine, which makes it nice and easy to use. It also houses a hefty 265cc motor, and a huge, 16-blade fan that, combined, allow it to move around twice as much air as most wheeled blowers.
It’s an incredibly reliable product too. It’s well built, and the motor comes with a 5-year warranty as standard, which should tell you something about the manufacturer’s confidence.
Hopefully, reading this guide has helped you to work out whether you need a blower or a vacuum, and helped you to identify the type of machine most suits to your needs.
If you’d like some obligation-free advice on picking the right leaf blower or vacuum, give us a call or drop us a message using the contact form on the site, so that a member of our team can get in touch.
The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us and there’s a nip in the air. There’s a wealth of rich autumn leaf colour to enjoy as well as berries and fruits. Late flowers inject a welcome flash of colour on dull days.
Every garden deserves a Japanese Maple. They have autumn colour all sewn up as they change from the greens or subdued reds of summer to spectacular shades of flame-red and oranges. Acer Palmatum Osakazuki is one of the best. It’s maple-shaped leaves graduate through every shade of glorious reds and oranges for several weeks before falling. Ideally grown in a sheltered spot in light shade, it will eventually grow to a height of 5m.
Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’(Spindle Tree) is really a large shrub that won’t set hearts alight in summer with its dark green leaves and small flowers, but more than makes up for it in autumn and winter, when it sets the garden ablaze with its strong leaf colour, and after the leaves fall there’s the bonus of orange-pink winged fruit to provide a winter feast for birds. The best leaf colour is in full sun, but it will also grow in partial shade. 2.5m tall.
Nerine bowdenii’s (Guernsey Lily) bright pink funnel-shaped flowers bloom ahead of its leaves. Best planted in full sun against a south-facing wall, a good baking in summer will reward you with a glamorous show in autumn. 45cm tall.
Even the smallest garden has room for a tree or two. A single tree can bring a garden to life, adding height, structure, and a sense of permanence. Trees provides shade, a habitat and food for birds, colour for autumn, spring blossoms and fruit. Careful consideration should be given to which tree, and its eventual height and position – it will be there for a long time!
Unless you have a large garden it makes sense to choose trees which have more than one season of interest. Malus Golden Hornet (Crab Apple) grows to 10m and has magnificent pink spring flowers, followed by decorative yellow fruits. Acer Palmatum Dissectum ‘Garnet’ grows to around 2m with red leaves throughout spring and summer changing to vivid scarlet in autumn. Another multi-tasker from the Acer family is Acer Griseum (Paper Bark Maple), which has attractive peeling bark all the year round and scarlet foliage in autumn.
Tree planting season is from October to March while they are dormant, and although you can plant container-grown trees all year round, autumn is the best time of all as the ground is still warm from the summer but moist thanks to seasonal rainfall. Instead of having to worry about watering you can leave autumn planted trees to look after themselves and they should be well-established by next summer. However, if you garden on heavy clay that stays very wet in winter you may be better-off waiting until spring.
Bare-rooted trees can be planted towards the end of October, provided the ground is ready and the leaves have fallen off.
Good soil preparation is key to how well the tree takes off. For container-grown specimens, loosen some of the roots at the edges of the rootball and dig a planting hole three times the size of the pot, deep enough for the bottom of the trunk to be level with the top of the hole. For bare-rooted trees, dig a large but shallow hole. In both cases drive in a support stake at an angle before placing the tree in the hole. Mix the soil you removed from the hole with plenty of well-rotted organic matter and bonemeal, and add to the bottom of the hole and around the roots. Tie-in to the stake and water well.
Check tree ties and stakes after a spell of windy weather. Ties need to be loosened as the girth of the trunk expands so it doesn’t throttle the plant. Trees are expensive, so don’t risk your investment for the sake of the right soil and a few minutes extra to do the job properly!
Bulbs are amongst the easiest and most rewarding garden plants to grow. Get them in the ground or in pots now so you can enjoy a cheerful parade of flowers going through from January to late spring.
Most bulbs can be planted now – Snowdrops, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Crocuses, Fritillaries, Iris, Muscari, Anemones, Scillas, Lillies, Alliums and Crocosmias, – but leave tulips until November. Hardy bulbs can be left undisturbed in the ground and will multiply over time. Only plant non-frost-hardy types if you can face the bother of lifting and storing them, or you’re happy to risk some losses.
The main rule with bulbs is to think big and plant for impact – if you think you need 20, plant 40! And in pots squeeze as many as you can get in without them touching. Plant in groups rather than in straight rows, and if planting a small number of bulbs choose an odd number for a more natural look. You’re unlikely to spend much time sitting out in the garden in February, so make sure you site them where you can see them from your window.
Try planting drifts in the border, or under deciduous trees for a carpet of colour in spring before the trees comes into leaf. Bulbs grown in the lawn will have to be mown around until 6 weeks after flowering. Bulbs in large containers can be planted in layers for a succession of blooms – Snowdrops in January give way to Daffodils and Tulips in March and April, followed by purple Alliums in May.
It’s important to bury them deeply enough – if you aim for three times their own depth you won’t go far wrong. Too shallow and they’re more likely to get eaten by pests. Too deep and they may not reach the surface. A bulb-planting tool and a good garden kneeler are worth their weight in gold if you have lots to plant.