Notes from the Garden

You might be thinking that the depths of winter is not the time to be in the garden- wrong! We had a chat to our favourite gardener Matthew Biggs about what should drag us away from a comfy chair and a good book in the coming months…

It might seem a quiet time for gardeners but actually there is lots to be done. If the weather is too dire to even venture out then a perusal of seed catalogues is always pleasurable, and a pad and pencil essential for planning what will go where is a must. It is so easy to over order when you see the wonderful illustrations but remember a packet of seeds goes a long way, so swapping and exchanging with gardening chums is a great idea.

When the weather permits, and perhaps with a warming mug of coffee at hand, it is the perfect time to look closely at every part of your garden. Check fences, decking and paths for any areas that need attention and plan those in, getting the professional on board where needed. This also applies to larger trees which might need crown lifting or thinning to let in more light and this is one for the tree surgeons for sure!  Now you have no flowers and foliage to distract you can assess the whole palette of your garden. You may have areas that you don’t use, areas that have little interest in certain parts of the year and may want to plan in some homegrown veggies and fruit- and this is the time to plan it.

Finally don’t forget the earliest arrivals in the New Year, clear the spaces around snowdrops so that you will see and enjoy them to their full, move pots around so that those with winter interest are where you can see them – and remember to add my favourite winter treat: the fabulous flowering shrub Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ (pictured above) is an absolute favourite. It’s a semi-evergreen, suckering shrub with tight clusters of exquisitely fragrant rose-purple flowers in late winter. A seedling of ‘Gurkha’ it was selected by Alan Postill, a renowned plant propagator from Hillier Nurseries in 1982 and named for his wife.’Gurkha’, was one of the original seedlings introduced by Major Spring Smyth, who sent three seedlings he found growing at 10,000 ft on the Milke Banjyang ridge, Nepal, where severe frosts and snowstorms occur during winter. Very hardy and wonderfully fragrant.

Matthew is a radio and TV presenter, member of BBC Gardeners’ Question Time Panel and author of a number of books, including Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopaedia, RHS Great British Village Show: What Goes on Behind the Scenes and How to Be a Prize-Winner by Matthew Biggs and Thane Prince.