Whether you’ve made gardening your New Year’s Resolution, or whether you’re simply a seasoned horticulturalist looking for some January inspiration, our new Head Gardener of Horatio’s Garden Wales, Owen Griffiths, has some wonderful advice to share with you.
It might be tempting to hibernate inside, but there are so many wonderful things to enjoy in the garden. Look out for morning frosts glistening on spider’s webs and seed heads. Give yourself a botanical challenge and see if you can identify any tree species from the shape of their buds. Are there any bulbs appearing? What fragrances can you find? I really look forward to Sarcococca and Hamamelis in the winter and I love the warm glow of an early sunset.
January can be a crucial month for preparing for the new growing season. You may need to protect plants that are vulnerable to the cold. I’ve got lemon verbena here and I’ll be protecting it if we get a cold spell. Tasks like cleaning pots and tools, or your greenhouse, can help you get organised. I highly recommend taking tools apart, where possible, to sharpen and oil them. You can check whether they need sharpening by trying to cut smoothly through paper.
Removing excess leaves from the garden can help to ensure that plants aren’t smothered. You can make a wire cage for the leaves so that they rot down into leaf mould in about a year. Don’t forget to fill up bird feeders and defrost bird baths so the birds have something to drink in icy temperatures.
If you have a greenhouse or a bright windowsill you can start sowing tomatoes and chillies. You can even start certain plants outside under a horticultural fleece. I recommend Swiss chard, which has a beautiful flavour and can really brighten up your garden.
There is plenty of pruning to be done in January too. Wisterias and roses can be pruned, as can apples, currants, gooseberries, whilst autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut to the ground. Plants such as hellebores and sedums can be cut back, but leave some species until early spring to provide shelter for wildlife. January is also a great time for coppicing hazel. You can use hazel poles for climbers like runner beans, and twiggy branches can be weaved together to support perennials, such as Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.
My final and most important tip is to keep yourself warm out there. I always get out my skiing gloves and trousers out in January!
Happy New Year!