December and January Gardening


“In the bleak midwinter….ground as hard as iron, water like a stone”.

This is a difficult time for plants:  when water freezes in the ground they cannot replace water lost from the leaves.  They have adapted by losing their leaves and becoming dormant, or by having waxy, waterproof leaves.

In December

  • Prune birches, Japanese maples now they are dormant, removing crossing branches and reducing overall size.
  • Prune grapevines, apples, pears, currants and gooseberries. The aim is to achieve an open-centred tree or bush. Renovation pruning of neglected trees is a three-year job (search apples and pears: renovating old trees at
  • Erect a rain shelter over wall-trained peaches and nectarines to protect against leaf curl until May.
  • Take hard wood cuttings from trees like mulberry, tamarix or euonymus: take the current season’s growth, cut into 10-20cm sections with about 4 buds. Cut below a node at the base and make a slanting cut away from a bud at the top. Insert into gritty compost and leave in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse.
  • ‘Force’ rhubarb by covering with straw and a dark bucket or special forcer pot.
  • Forget the tinsel! Coloured stems from acers, cornus, willows and bamboos go well with holly, ivy and fir for your seasonal decorations.
  • Have a very happy Christmas.



Hellebores {Christmas roses)


Hints and Tips for October 2019

Potential bird food?

October will probably bring the first frosts and they will precipitate colour change, leaf fall and the sound of blowers that will reverberate in the neighbourhood!  So long as the leaves are disease-free, they can be collected, and will decay to form leaf mould.  Your heap of dead leaves may make a home for hedgehogs, slow-worms and many invertebrates over winter.

Tender plants like Fuchsia, citrus and Brugmansia should be moved indoors or under glass.  Cannas, gladioli, tuberous begonias and dahlias need to be lifted and their tubers/bulbs stored somewhere dry and frost-free.  Salvias can be protected outside with a thick layer of mulch; Penstemmons and Gaura survive better if you leave their stems in place to protect new growth until late spring.

Potatoes, beetroots and turnips can be damaged by frost, but can be harvested and stored indoors (dark and dry).  Pumpkins and squashes need a few days in a warm room to ‘cure’ before storage.

Herbaceous borders need to be reviewed… Cut down old foliage, unless it provides useful seeds or protection for wildlife; divide overcrowded plants, retaining the outside vigorous parts and replant in enriched soil.  Crocosmias, particularly need to be divided every 3 years because, as I have found, their flowering is much diminished if you don’t!  (Cut down the leaves, dig up the whole clump, and replace the fattest corms in improved soil).

By the way, rhubarb that has been in place for five years, needs to be treated in much the same way, retaining the outermost parts to grow on.

Spare plants could contribute to the plant sale during Crondall Open Gardens 2020.


February Hints and Tips 2019

In January, my garden is in a muddle.  At least 17 different plant types are flowering: leftovers from last year, like Fuchsia, Abutilon and Hederantha, genuine winter flowerers like Helleborus, Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’, Iris unguiculata, winter jasmine and witchhazel, and Pulmonaria and primroses that think it is spring!

It is difficult to predict how things will develop from now.  It may depend on whether we get another ‘Beast from the East’.  With any luck, we should be enjoying daffodils and crocuses and noticeably longer days.

Some plants that flower on new season’s growth, like late-flowering clematis and Buddleja, need to be stimulated by pruning back to a framework now.

Buddleja before pruning

Buddleja after pruning










So… Jobs you could do in February

Ornamental garden

Prune late-flowering clematis to just above a low pair of healthy buds 6-12” (15- 30cm) above soil level.

Prune winter jasmine after flowering has finished; cut back vigorous stems and old and crossing stems

Finish pruning rambling and climbing roses and start pruning bush roses at the end of the month.


December Gardening

December Gardening 2018 by Ewshot Gardener

Most leaves of deciduous trees have fallen by now and you tidy gardeners will have swept
them up and started the leaf mould process – you cannot buy leaf mould. Beech hedges will
retain their dead leaves until Spring. Oak trees will continue to lose leaves and you can
watch as ‘herds’ of leaves skitter like mice along paths to hide in corners throughout the
This is the time of year when structure in the garden is important. Deciduous tree and
shrubs present skeletons of branches; you can improve their appearance by pruning out
crossing or crowded branches. If they are providing too much shade, then perhaps you
could lift the canopy.
All that hard work in the summer clipping evergreen shrubs and hedges into shape can be
appreciated now; the crisp green outlines you created look wonderful all the way to Spring
Not all colour has gone: stems of dogwoods, willows and some maples are colourful both
outside, and as part of your Christmas decorations indoors. (Something I found worked well,
in Spring, when you have to cut back dogwoods to get new colourful shoots, use the old
shoots as decorative plant supports.)
Birch bark can light up the winter garden on dark days. Some varieties are better than
others. Betula albo-sinensis has orange bark, B.papyrifera has white bark that peels off in
Mahonia, Hellebores, Daphne and Viburnum are good shrubs for winter colour and often
scent. The very early Iris unguicularis (stilosa) flowers in the dead of winter, clear blue
flowers that you can cut and admire in a vase.

This is Clematis tangutica. Seed heads can be decorative at this time of year

Jobs to do
Kitchen garden
For fresh mint and chives, pot up some roots for the kitchen windowsill.
Cover rhubarb crowns with straw and cover with a bucket or clay rhubarb pot.
Prune grape vines and continue to prune apples, pears, currants and gooseberries. If you
have a neglected fruit tree, now is the time to renovate by removing some larger branches.
Be warned, though, that if you cut off more than a third, the roots and top will be unbalanced
and you will get vigorous ‘water shoots’ that look like witches’ broomsticks. Smaller fruit
trees can be sprayed with winter tree wash to reduce early aphid damage.
Ornamental garden
Dry mulch tender perennials such as agapanthus and phygelius to protect their crowns.
Prune Acer and Betula before mid-December to avoid sap bleeding.
Enjoy the patterned leaves of cyclamens; these will remain until Spring. I forgot to mention
holly, ivy and mistletoe!
Where there is heavy soil, avoid walking on your lawn when it is wet or frosty. This prevents
slipperiness and soil compaction.
Unless you have a cat, keep feeding the birds … except feeding pigeons or rabbits with your
winter greens (net them).
Last year, snow collected on my netting and crushed the broccoli, so a redesign is needed
using more rigid net and sturdier posts – you learn more through mistakes, I suppose. (more…)

November Gardening Tips

The colour of trees in the garden and wider countryside turns to gold, red and bronze, quite lovely on a sunny day. The ground beneath looks gold plated.

I am not fastidious about raking leaves up immediately – they will do no harm for several weeks and will provide food for worms.  Left too long, they will start to damage grass and provide slug heaven, so I will have to pick them up and make leaf mould!

Dead leaves in the pond should be removed with a rake or net, but leave some as a habitat for invertebrates.  Put the extracted leaves near the pond for a day so that any creepy-crawlies can get back into the water.

At this time of year, the fruiting bodies of fungi (toadstools) are visible.  It is worth remembering that leaves are broken down mainly by fungi, liberating nutrients.  The vast network of tiny tubes (mycelium) from which the toadstools arise is of great importance to the health of trees and shrubs.  They live in a mutually beneficial relationship with the roots, increasing surface area for the uptake of water and nutrients.  More is being discovered all the time.  Fungi mostly only colonise a plant that is already damaged or stressed.

Jobs to do

Regularly check stored apples for rot







October Hints and Tips


This rose won 1st prize at the Summer Show

2018 has produced an extraordinary crop of top fruits and they have been ready to harvest from late August. o you have probably already stored the sound fruit in newspaper in a cool shed or garage. However, it has been too dry for autumn raspberries to thrive. I am so disappointed.

Other jobs you could do 

Remaining tender fruits like squashes, pumpkins and turnips need to be brought indoors to protect them from frosty nights.  You can plant autumn onions, garlic and overwintering broad beans.

Rake up and dispose of rotting fallen fruits and leaves from apples and pears – it is best to burn or green bin them to reduce fungal infection next year.  Grease bands will prevent female winter moths climbing up the trunks to lay their eggs. (Their larvae eating their way out of the fruit is one cause of rot.)

Rhubarb that has been in place for five years should be lifted and divided. Discard the centre and replant the outermost vigorous portions.

Pot up and bring under glass Fuchsia, citrus and Brugmansia; dig up tubers of tender plants like Dahlia and Canna once the foliage has been slightly blackened by frost – place them in a frost free, dry place over winter.

Lift and divide herbaceous perennials and cut back top growth UNLESS they are very tender like Penstemon, Gaura or hardy Fuchsia, where the top will protect the new growth from frost.  Unless you are obsessively tidy-minded, it is kind to leave some seed heads for the wildlife.

Take hard wood cuttings of roses and other deciduous shrubs like Cornus, Forsythia and Philadelphus.  It is a good idea to reduce hybrid tea roses and Buddleia by a third to prevent wind rock; for the same reason prune old growth of climbing roses and tie in new shoots of ramblers.


September Gardening Tips

Here are your tips for September gardening. After a cold Spring, we have had a hot dry June and July 2018 and now a cool damp week.  By the time you read this, we might be under water or in a desert!  The hot weather hastened the ripening of apples and brought forward the harvesting of potatoes; the runner beans in my care have hated it!

The suggestions of things to do in the September garden are based on what normally needs to be done at this time of year.

Ornamental garden

The year is far from over and chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias will go on flowering so long as you feed and dead-head them.  Take cuttings of favourite fuchsias, pelargoniums and penstemons to overwinter under cover. Collect seeds from other plants and dry them before storing in paper envelopes (or swapping with friends).

Lift and divide hardy perennials. Plant new ones for next year’s colour e.g. Helenium, Helianthus and Asters.

September is also a time to start planting for spring – daffodils need to go in now, but tulips can wait until November.

Plant trees and shrubs while the soil is still warm.

To give a tidy outline for the Winter, clip deciduous hedges like hawthorn, beech and hornbeam, and give a second clip to the soft growth of cypress and yew.



August Gardening Tips

August Gardening By Ewshot Gardener

In the vegetable garden, carrots, lettuce, spinach can still be sown and harvesting soft fruit, early potatoes, peas, broad beans and courgettes gives me great pleasure.  However, the prolonged hot, dry spell has prevented soft fruit from swelling, so I shall have to wait for the autumn-fruiting raspberries.

The other effect of drought at this time is that rain is needed for next year’s flower buds to form on Rhododendrons and Camellias, so we are likely to get fewer flowers than this spring (remember the wet July in 2017?)

I tend to plant out broccoli and other brassicas in the space cleared when I dig up the early potatoes. On the light gravelly soil of my garden, the organic matter left over by the potatoes helps to retain moisture. I add some lime as well, since the cabbage family likes a more neutral soil.    Oh yes, net against pigeons and squash caterpillars… aahh, the wildlife!

Church Crookham Garden society has moved their show from the August bank holiday weekend to September 8th, hoping that more young people will be able to put in an entry. There are many open classes and entry is free. You can find the handbook on the website.

In August you can harvest runner beans, sweet corn and main crop potatoes.  Autumn planted shallots, onions and garlic can be harvested from July.

If you have a wildflower meadow, mow or strim it at 7.5cm at the end of August; leave the cuttings for a few days to let the seeds drop, then rake up the ‘hay’.

The apples you thinned out in July, will start to ripen at the end of August, or earlier this year, and can be stored in a cool dark place on racks or in newspaper.

Although the perennials that flowered in July may be past their best, there is an extensive palette of late-flowering plants to see us through to the autumn, including asters, Hesperantha, sedum (Hylotelephium) and hydrangeas.


This is a popular plant with bees – Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’

Gardens open for charity

5th August  Dipley Mill, Hartley Wintney

19th August The Thatched Cottage, and Berry Cottage, Church Rd , Upper Farringdon, Alton (joint entry)


July Gardening Tips


Here is an Erigeron still standing. It is popular with the bees.

In July, I mourn the end of the glorious riot of rambling roses on the pergola and get on with pruning out shoots that have flowered and tying in the vigorous new growth.  The climbing roses will keep flowering if you keep dead-heading them.

All is not lost, though.  July is the month when herbaceous perennials are reaching their best, although they may need support (if you didn’t give them the ‘Chelsea chop!).  Bedding plants are also in their prime and should delight us until the Autumn if you keep dead-heading.

Talking of chopping; now the birds have fledged their young, you can clip hedges, including privet, cypress, box and yew. Cut back the trailing shoots of wisteria to 5-6 leaves to encourage next year’s flower buds to form.

Cypress hedges look better with two clips a year, in July and September.

Lawns and edges need to be kept mown/ clipped because fast growth, if it stays wet, leads to a patchy sward and slugs under the grassy fringe.  However, if it is dry, leave the mowing or use a very high setting for the blade

In the vegetable garden, carrots, lettuce, spinach can still be sown and harvesting soft fruit, early potatoes, peas, broad beans and courgettes gives me great pleasure.

I tend to plant out broccoli and other brassicas in the space cleared when I dig up the early potatoes. On the light gravelly soil of my garden, the organic matter left over by the potatoes helps to retain moisture. I add some lime as well, since the cabbage family likes a more neutral soil.

Oh yes, net against pigeons and squash caterpillars… aahh, the wildlife!

July 15th is the time for the Ewshot Show and they have a produce show – why not contribute an entry?  Crondall’s 55th flower, produce and craft show is on the 28th.


Gardens open for charity

15th July, 5th August  Dipley Mill, Hartley Wintney

1st & 29th July, 19th August The Thatched Cottage, and Berry Cottage, Church Rd , Upper Farringdon, Alton (joint entry)

Our associated society, Dogmersfield and Crookham Village, have arranged a visit to Whispers, Chatter Alley, Dogmersfield on 4th July starting at 12.30pm.  £6.00 per head. Picnics welcome, but no tea or coffee available.

sunflower time!

June Gardening Tips

A June border

June Gardening by Ewshot Gardener

It has been a relief to have some exceptional warmth in early May, but the cold wet Spring has made germination patchy.
Azaleas and rhododendrons are having a good year and primroses and Pulmonaria have been spectacular for weeks.
These are jobs you could be doing in June, among others:
Ornamental garden
* Gently remove spent flowers from Camellia, and rhododendron to make room for the leaf buds emerging behind.
* Harvest hellebore seeds once pods ripen (use gloves) and sow into pots or trays
* Divide bearded irises after flowering
* Sow biennials like sweet William, viola and wallflowers
* Divide spring-flowering bulbs.

* Mow regularly but, if it is hot and dry, raise the cutting height.
* Apply a high-nitrogen lawn feed (again not when dry)
* Add clippings to the compost heap in small amounts; mix them with dry material to stop it all going slimy.

Kitchen garden
* Pinch out side shoots of cordon tomatoes
* Plant out pumpkins, squashes, courgettes and beans. You could direct sow both these and sweetcorn.
* Because sweetcorn is wind pollinated, do not plant them in a row but in a block, so the pollen gets to the stigmas of neighbouring plants.
* Harvest early potatoes when they begin flowering
* Sow autumn carrots.
* Net Strawberries and brassicas against birds.
* Sorry! But stop cutting asparagus and feed it so the crowns are ready for next year
* It looks as if apples and pears have set well in my garden. If yours have too, wait until after the June drop to thin fruit out! (bitter experience on my part here)