Garden Diary - December 2013

Christmas is less than a week away and the weather continues to be unnaturally mild for this time of year. The gardeners are still busy with winter digging, mulching, tidying and cleaning, especially in our acre of glasshouses and then there’s the wonderful continuous harvest of winter vegetables, oriental salads and herbs.

Winter is definitely here, the trees by now are bare, the leaves on the ground providing debris for the worms and insects to feed on, all which helps build up the organic matter in the soil.

Against the wall of the Cookery School, the yellow winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is in full bloom, and a few feet away from it, a large Mahonia (Mahonia japonica) is also displaying it’s architectural yellow blooms.

Blackbirds continue to feed on the yellow and red crab apples in the Ornamental fruit garden; here also under the apple trees, the leaves of the Hellebores have been removed to show off the emerging buds. In the New Year a welcome carpet of Hellebore blooms will cover the ground.

The Kitchen Garden has been mostly cleared, and winter digging has taken place to expose the soil to the frost, this will help to kill off any undesirable pests (the birds will feast on them too!) and it helps to break up the soil for ease of sowing and planting into, in the springtime. Leeks and celeriac continue to be harvested from here. The standard Bay trees (Laurus nobilis) provide structure in the otherwise bare pottager.

In Lydia’s Garden, a magnificent shrub, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is in full flower, this Viburnum flowers from October to March in mild conditions. It has exquisite rose-tinted, fragrant flowers made all the more attractive because it flowers on bare wood.  

In the herb garden, cutting back and tidying is ongoing; including the removal of a number of rows of Box hedging (Buxus sempirvirens), which had an infestation of ground elder. New box hedging will be planted to replace them. The Pineapple Sage has survived the frosty nights, and displays its bright red flowers. The new foliage of the Globe Artichokes reflects the winter sunlight and provides interest in these shorter days.

On entering the Pleasure Garden, the brown peeling tree trunk of the Paper Bark Maple (Acer griseum) provides wonderful winter colour. Work on the herbaceous borders has been completed; the different varieties of ornamental grasses provide winter structure and colour.

Autumn raspberries have been cut to the ground, and the canes shredded for the compost in the soft fruit area. This week the fruit bushes; gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries, tayberries, loganberries to name a few, have been weeded and are getting a top dressing of the garden’s well-rotted compost. This provides good mulch for the winter and a nutritional feed for the spring (Not too far away!).

In the vegetable area outside the glasshouse, parsnips, turnips, red and green cabbage, brussels sprouts and jerusalem artichokes continue to be harvested.

In the glasshouses, an extensive clean is ongoing; this includes cleaning the mypex, panes and paths. As each of the bays is cleared, a trailer full of the garden’s well-rotted compost is mixed in with the existing soil, adding organic matter and replacing lost nutrients.

Also under cover of glass, Potatoes (‘Colleen’ and ‘Casablanca’ varieties) are being sown this week; they’ll be ready for an April harvest. Orientals salads such as; Tatsoi, Mizuna, Mibuna, Green Frills, Red Frills, Turnip Tops, to name a few are all growing well indoors in this mild weather. Herbs such as Coriander, Chervil, Dill and Parsley fill a separate bay. Kale, one of the hardier brassicas has no issue with the milder conditions and continues to be harvested.

The passion flower vine (Passiflora) and the kiwi plants (Actinidia deliciosa) have been pruned.

Please visit our Cookery School Garden blog in January for the next update!  Wishing all our readers a Happy and Peaceful Christmas!

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