The best Christmas garden produce
PUBLISHED: 10:20 19 December 2015
Don't neglect your garden this festive season. Here are essential chores of the week and the best Christmas plants
Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
This prickly evergreen with scarlet red berries is synonymous with Christmas, whether providing colour and form to the winter garden or used to enhance festive wreaths or indoor decorations. Most hollies have male flowers on one plant and females on another and you’ll need to plant at least one of each if you want berries. Don’t be fooled by the names - ‘Silver Queen’ is a male and ‘Martin’ a female, so ask your garden centre to identify the gender. In small gardens, you could plant ‘J C van Tol’, a self-fertile holly with not-too-prickly green leaves that can berry on its own. Hollies like sandy soils and will survive in most soils, but hate waterlogged conditions.
This strongly-scented hardy perennial herb is a must if you want a really good stuffing for your turkey at Christmas - and you can grow it earlier in the year and then freeze or dry it for the festive season. It prefers a warm, sunny, sheltered spot, so start seeds off in trays indoors in spring, transferring seedlings to their resting spot after the last frosts. Most sages (there are over 750, the majority ornamental) are native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and Asia Minor. They generally prefer sunny, dry, rocky slopes and look good with low-growing thymes, oregano, marjoram and rosemary. Ideal conditions are full sun, good drainage, a soil pH of 5 to 8 and moderate fertility. Sage needs to be replaced every four or five years, when the plant becomes woody and straggly. The best way to do this is to start new plants from cuttings or by layering.
What to do this week
:: Take winter baskets under cover, either into the greenhouse or porch, before severe weather arrives.
:: Do some armchair gardening, planning what you are going to grow in the coming season and look through seed and bulb catalogues, making a list of what you want.
:: Continue winter pruning apples and pears.
:: After frost, refirm the ground around plants.
:: Protect young rhododendrons planted in exposed areas by putting up a temporary windbreak of fine net or hessian attached to stout supports.
:: Prune roses in pots being forced in the greenhouse.
:: Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs when they are dormant.
:: On heavy soils, finish digging over the soil on the vegetable patch, leaving the winter weather to break down exposed clods of earth.
:: Lift rhubarb for forcing indoors if not yet done.
:: Continue to harvest Jerusalem artichokes.
:: In cold areas, protect foliage of Dutch and Spanish irises with bracken or cloches.