It may be worth forsaking some winter beauty to get the best possible garden, with healthy, blooming plants and wildlife come spring.

When you think of a winter garden you probably imagine strong evergreen topiary and frosted seed heads set prettily against a crystal blue sky with sharp early morning light sparkling through.

Unfortunately the UK winters are now so unpredictable that we cannot guarantee those crisp cold sunny mornings that warrant planting a garden solely for its winter seed heads.

My own garden is full of late summer colour which will continue flowering up to the first frosts but just in case we have another damp soggy winter this year I am going to cut the seed heads down and feed and mulch it with well rotted manure to prepare it for the summer next year instead.

Although it will leave the garden looking very empty over the winter I can cope with that as long as I know that the earth is getting ready for a fabulous spring next year under its blanket of ‘black gold’ as manure is otherwise known.

If you garden in a Mediterranean way with gravel and scree then adding more gravel to the garden gives the same effect as an organic mulch. It obviously wont feed the plants but most of these plants are quite happy on a lean diet and don’t require the boost.

Another important job for January/February is to prune your late flowering clematis. Take them back to a pair of strong buds around 20cm from ground level. Do not touch any early flowerers like Montana though; they flower on last year’s growth so if you cut them back now you will lose the flowers this year.

You can also give your irrigation an overhaul while the beds are emptier and you can see the wood for the trees so to speak.

Start by removing the caps at the end and flush through to remove any grit or sediment that may be blocking the spray heads. Check for any leaks or damaged pipes and repair or replace as needed.

Other jobs that you might like to tackle during the winter:

- Tie in climbing plants to make sure they are secure and the wind doesn’t damage them over the winter, this is especially important for climbing roses.

- Rake up autumnal fallen leaves out of the borders and off lawns and compost to provide an organic mulch next year. Leafmould is a great soil improver and information about how best to make this can be found at

- Clean your pots. It isn’t the most pleasurable of jobs but will help to keeps pests and diseases at bay next year. If you are lucky enough to have somewhere frost free to store them do so after cleaning.

- Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds over the winter as well, they really rely on help from humans over these cold winter months. If you put up a nest box around January /February they will also have time to check it out and may well decide to use it come the spring.

Kate Gould is an award winning garden designer. Find out more at