December Gardening Tips

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 Winter.

This is the time of year when structure in the garden is important.  Deciduous trees 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 strips.

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.

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.

Prepare for Spring by digging a trench for next year’s runner beans.

Do not forget to order seeds and seed potatoes so they can be started off in January.

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!

Seed heads can be decorative. This is Clematis tangutica



Plant Amaryllis, Narcissi and Hyacinths for scent and colour.

I hope that you have a very happy, plant enriched, Christmas time.



We all hope that the Garden Society will be able to function more normally in 2021.  The Trading Shed should be able to open on 13th Feb, although it may be by timed appointment still.  The Halls are provisionally booked for AGM and Quiz 26th Feb, Spring Show 27th March and Annual Show 21st August.