Winter-proof your plants

Winter-proof your plants
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September and October tend to afford a last flurry of beautiful colour, and by November, we start preparing the garden for the next year. November still has its charms, but November/early December is the ideal time to really get things sorted.

First, prepare your soil, which will have been leached dry of nutrients. Clear all your spent container plants and compost them and, with a small fork, dig over the remaining compost and reuse it for fresh plants – perhaps for a few winter-themed pots – try cyclamen and ivy for a classic combination. Just add a little general fertiliser to the old compost, a handful of fresh multi-purpose compost and it’ll be good as new. For beds, make sure they’re weeded, raked over, organic matter such as compost or manure is added, and existing plants have been mulched to keep roots warm.

It’s also time to insulate vulnerable plants – unless you live in Cornwall or the south coast. Bubble-wrap the pots of more tender plants to reduce the chance of frost damage and use horticultural fleece on plants such as banana trees and figs whose branch tips often succumb to cold weather. Bring the most tender plants, like aloe veras, inside until spring.

If you want to add some hedging or trees, now’s the time. Essentially, the roots need a well-dug, fertile space, and new trees and shrubs always need watering in well.

This is also a good time to do more major garden jobs that are easier to do in low season, such as a pond, which will increase the diversity of your plants and garden wildlife.

As for yearly maintenance tasks, now you’ve (possibly) stopped mowing, give your mower a clean or, better still, get it serviced. Clean out your greenhouse with special detergent to prevent pests and disease spreading and use the same stuff to rinse out slimy water butts, too.

As well as some new colourful wintry pots of evergreens and seasonal blooms, tulips and lily bulbs can still be planted out now for a garden brimful of colour next year.

3 trees and shrubs for... a bright winter

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1. Euonymus

Scarlet autumn leaves will have fallen so its neon pink and orange berries stand out proud.

2. Callicarpa

Bright clusters of violet berries (right) cling to leafless stems in winter.

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3. Pyracantha

Grow this gem for its spiny branches full of orange, red or yellow berries.

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