December in the Garden - plants for December
Jobs and tips for December in the garden
Jobs and Tips
Place any containers that contain shrubs or trees in a more sheltered position. Some such as palms and Cordylines will benefit from being tied up and wrapped in hessian sacking or horticultural fleece for protection (i.e. they might not survive if you don't). Others don't need to be placed out of sight which defeats the object somewhat, but will benefit from being put in a less exposed position so they don't get battered by the wind and rain so much. Closeness to buildings often gives a slightly warmer position, move them back to a more prominent position next spring when they're starting to grow again and the weather has calmed down.
Likewise winter flowering pansies. They don't really start to perform until early spring and will look better the more sheltered they are, so don't make them face the worst.
Prune overhanging trees and shrubs, cut stems back to the junction with another stem or right down to ground level so that the plant doesn't look too "stumpy".
Grasses and other plants with ornamental seed heads should be left through the winter so the frost can pick them out on crisp sunny days. The dead parts of the plant will also help to protect dormant shoots hidden in the depths from the worst ravages of any frosts.
Main tree and hedge planting time. Between now and the end of the year is the best time to plant any trees and hedging or other bare-rooted shrubs. These are best bought bare-rooted from nurseries, this way they will be dormant, but have a more extensive root system than those grown in containers. They should be planted as soon as you can so they spend the minimum time out of the ground. This applies in particular to ornamental cultivars which are less tolerant than most.
Why bother? Why not wait until it's a bit warmer and more pleasant and plant out of containers?
1/ Bare rooted trees and shrubs are cheaper, as little as half the price for trees and cheaper than this for shrubs though the range is smaller, so you can either save money or spend the same and get a much bigger tree.
2/ Planting now means that they get off to the best possible start in the spring. As soon as the plants wake up and start putting their roots out, they're already in your soil rather in a pot that will then planted in the soil later, one less jolt to the system.
So brave the elements and do it now! Make sure though that you add lots of organic matter to the soil when filling the planting hole and that you stake trees well.
Look after your Christmas tree. If there's much of a choice, place the tree in the coolest position you can - this is probably not an option for most people as it'll be in the living room - just makes the other stuff more important!
When you first get the tree home take a thin slice off the bottom of the trunk with a sharp saw, this will give access to the open water carrying vessels that may have become calloused over or bunged up while being transported. Place the tree into a bucket of water for up to a day before bringing it into the house (if you are allowed to by excitable children that is). Make sure the support you get for the tree has a reservoir for water, this will keep it going more than anything else that you can do. Treat it like cut flowers, keeping the water topped up - but make sure you turn the lights off before you do this for safeties sake. Some people recommend adding things to the water the tree stands in (fertiliser, aspirin, a small amount of bleach etc.), I've never bothered, but you could try, it's one of those things that no-one ever seems to test as it only happens once a year.
Picture credits: Holly in snow - Randi Hausken, Baerum Norway used under CC2 Attribution Share and Share Alike Generic license / Mistletoe with berries - Schnobby used under CC3 Attribution Share and Share Alike Unported license
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