Winter Gardening Ideas: how to look after your garden

As the chilly nights draw in make sure you follow these top tips on how to look after your garden over the winter with winter gardening ideas from Head Gardener Claire Greenslade.

Winter Gardening Ideas: Cannas looking totally tropical on the Great Plat this summer

Cannas looking totally tropical on the Great Plat this summer

1. Lift tender plants

Many tender species need to be lifted before the hard frosts but this can vary depending on where you live in the country and the plant in question. In Somerset I am happy to leave penstemon in all year round but when I worked in Coventry these were considered tender and were lifted annually.

Cannas planted in the Great Plat look very tropical but in fact benefit from their leaves being blackened by the frost before we lift them – sending them into a little state of panic makes them rush to store their sugars.

We also sink some tender plants in pots directly in the ground, which means we can pop them in and out really easily and they happily overwinter in the glasshouses.

Many plants used in containers or bedding over the summer can be reused in future years if you take the time to put in a glasshouse.

Echeverias having a winter holiday in the glasshouse

Our echeveria puts on a beautiful display on the Victorian terrace and each winter they go for a holiday to our greenhouse. Next summer they head outside again. This is a great way to avoid wasting money on new plants. Some plants that we treat as annuals in the UK can be stored and last another year or so if have a heated glasshouse to store them in. We have had success with felicia and scenecio.

2. Propagate

Winter is the time to take hardwood cuttings. These are the simplest cuttings and work well on lots of deciduous shrubs such as dogwoods and currants but also can be used on roses.

If you’re not familiar with the process, here’s how to propagate:

a) Find straight plant material preferably as thick as a pencil.
b) Cut a straight cut under a leaf node (scar where the leaf used to be) then look for another leaf bud about 6-8 inches up.
c) Cut above this bud angling the cut away from the bud. Mainly this will help you remember which way up the cuttings go but also will protect from bud rot when the water runs off the bud rather than into it.
d) Then either pop straight into the ground or into a long pot of multi purpose compost.
e) Push the cutting into the soil so that most of it is submerged but the top bud is showing.
f) Then just leave outside somewhere where water naturally finds it so that once watered in you don’t have to think about it again. These cuttings are slow to root and may take a year so don’t panic!

Gardener Kate preparing to mulch!

3. Winter mulching

We make compost throughout the year from green waste from the garden, leafy food waste from the kitchens and shredded paper from the offices. We have 5 compost bays and once one is full it is turned into the next and so on until at the end of the year we have a huge heap of home-made compost which we then cover with tarp until it is needed (this just stops weed seed being blown into it).

During the winter whilst the soil is damp we use this mulch on our beds. Not only does it help to feed the soil but it also helps to lock in moisture. During the hot, dry spell this summer you could certainly tell where we had mulched. Although we make our own compost we never have enough to mulch the whole garden so we also buy in spent mushroom compost to help.

Get stuck into these winter gardening ideas and you’ll reap the rewards next year! Or if you’re looking for a little less effort, visit our Plant Centre and Gardens Shop to snap up some bargains.

You can also get back to basics with our workshops on apple pruning and rose pruning.