So quiet and subtle is the beauty of December…colour gives way to form: every branch distinct, in a delicate tracery against the sky.” ~ Flora Thomspon
When we gardeners think of next year’s growing seasons, we firstly consider all those plants that we already have that require staking, cutting back or bedding down for winter. Some will need frost protection and/or have cuttings taken as insurance against loss, or simply for multiplying stock. Since it’s been such a warm, wet November, these preparations have only recently begun.
Mine is a cold greenhouse, part storage shed, part plant house. Now it’s being used to shelter the movable, potted half-hardy perennials. It’s also nurturing some semi-ripe cuttings of the less mobile, tender perennials (the parent plants are now nestling under hay/straw layers of frost protection).
There is no additional heating source as I want to keep the greenhouse ‘green’ but, on the plant stand side have put in place some clear plastic cavity trays I had, to act as secondary glazing. I figured the cavities will act like air pockets for insulation, and besides I did not want to buy/use greenhouse bubble wrap.
In future, I’ll consider including other ‘renewable’ heating methods such as a manure based ‘hot bed’, but for now Pelargonium and Salvias find enough warmth here.
And just to ensure I remember which plants are frost tender, I have created a new category for tender perennials. Most of these could take care of themselves in my London garden but having moved to Derbyshire, winter protection is a must. Any future plant purchases I make, however, will be confined to hardier varieties as it makes better sense to fit the plants to their environs rather than having to shield them against their surroundings.
Two non-herbaceous tender plants I also have are a small Agave americana ‘Variegata; a gift that might be better re-homed but for now I’ve brought indoors. Also, a couple of knee-high shrubby Leptospermum scoparium which I grew from seed (as memento of a 2019 New Zealand trip). These struggled last winter without extra protection in the greenhouse (and outside in the August heat/drought whilst I was away). They can withstand temperatures down to -5°C (23°F) and so will be placed in a pop-up cloche before long as snow showers and frost are predicted next week.
As a pensioner, budgeting is becoming more and more of a necessity, especially with current inflation and a new garden to stock. Next Spring I’ll be purchasing a number of shrubs but to keep further costs to a minimum, I’ve rather optimistically bought several seed packets of perennials and annuals to help fill out the bare garden spaces.
Usually I’m more successful propagating from cuttings rather than seed (all that fiddly sowing and transplanting takes its toll on my patience!). And this month have ventured for the first time ever into preparing a variety of hardwood cuttings (with this helpful video from Burncoose Nursery).
It’s one gardening job we can do at this time of year, and also hardwood cuttings require no heat but are potted up and left outside. My main motive was to grow willow in order to infill gaps in my lower boundary hedge. But I also ventured into my daughter’s garden to cut long stems of fuchsia magellanica, a Japanese quince (chaenomeles speciosa ‘rubra’) and Deutzia scabra (also from Japan).
Meanwhile, a few tubers drying out in the greenhouse will benefit from shredded paper or straw covering. I also swept the floor of dirt and plant detritus as disease and pest prevention. In the process, a large snail was discovered snuggled into one corner – and evicted into the boundary hedge! Though I’m hardly squeamish, I’d not the heart for any other outcome.