Tips for Your Winter Garden from the StABG Garden Team
Reading Time 2 minutes and 10 seconds
Date 14 December 2023
With December almost here, we've asked our Garden Team to share their top tips for your Winter Garden!
Winter is a good time to take hardwood cuttings – very straightforward to prepare, and the easiest type of cutting to look after. These work well for almost all deciduous shrubs, soft fruit, and many climbers too. Choose straight sections of stem, about the thickness of a pencil, and cut up into pieces of around 15-30cm in length. It’s useful to make the top cut a sloping cut, so that it reminds you which end is which!
Push the cuttings into deep pots of sand or free-draining compost – and then put them somewhere cool and sheltered (a coldframe or cold greenhouse is ideal, but a sheltered part of the garden will be fine too). Be patient and don’t disturb them until the following autumn.
Order and sow seeds of herbaceous perennials
At this time of year, the nursery team is busy poring over seed catalogues, selecting the seeds they will be growing next year. Most of our hardy perennials are sown just before Christmas and then left outdoors in a cold frame over the winter. Peter says “Now is a great time to get Mother Nature to help with the hard work. Seeds which need stratification will get this naturally over the winter, and we should get good germination as temperatures warm in spring”.
Winter can also be a great time to plan any changes you want to make in your garden. The Garden and Conservation team are busy planning improvements to the Meanwhile Garden at the moment, which should be completed by next Easter. It’s a good time to put in new paths or beds, whilst most plants are dormant. Will says “You can see the structure of the garden much better at this time of year, without the distraction of all the leaves and flowers. This makes it easier to envisage any changes you want to make.”
Many modern bush roses benefit from being pruned twice – with the main, careful pruning being carried out at the end of winter, usually in late February or March when the worst of the frosts are over. However, it can also be helpful to reduce the height of your plants now by about a third, especially if you live in a windy spot. Beccy says “This first prune doesn’t need to be too precise, but shortening the longest stems now does save your bush roses from being rocked around too much over the winter”.
The team’s favourite winter plants:
Dipsacus fullonum – teasel seed heads look wonderful on a frosty morning.
Hamamelis sp. – witch hazels flower in late winter and release clouds of perfume on milder days – enough to lift the spirits even on a dreich day. There is a large H. japonica ‘Arborea’ in the botanic garden between the Visitor Centre and the Bioscope cinema which is reliably gorgeous.
Galanthus sp. – there are drifts of common snowdrop to enjoy in January and February throughout the garden, but keep an eye out on the rock garden for some more usual species, including G. plicathus and G. woronowii .