December is the time of year when the outside comes into the home in the form of foliage decoration and when gardeners can put their feet up, just for a few minutes.
Natural living decorations and table centrepieces are easy and eco friendly to create – and often something all the family has a hand in putting together. Try this for a naturally stunning centrepiece for the Christmas table. Get a good terracotta container, fill it with compost and plant winter cherry in the centre. Winter cherry is a waxy leaved plant with amazing cherry tomato like berries. It’s a popular Christmas plant so should be available in most garden centres. Then around the winter cherry plant a few small Poinsettias and some Ivy.
Indoor plants come into their own during the winter months and there are a number of tips on how to care for them that are handed down through the generations. One is that tea is a good fertiliser for pot plants. Although tea contains nutrients and minerals such as nitrogen which promotes leafy growth other elements such as aluminium, fluorine and manganese, which are harmless to people could actually retard plant growth. Regular watering and an occasional liquid feed are better for plant health than relying on tea. Used tea leaves are best added to your compost heap in the garden.
When it comes to garden plants there are lots of winter flowering and evergreen varieties to choose from and a popular fragrant choice is the evergreen shrub Sarcococca, commonly known as ‘sweet box’ or ‘Christmas box’ with its delicate white flowers that bloom over winter and early spring. Former Chanel model and founder of the Edible Bus Stop Mak Gilchrist is a real fan “This plant has incredibly intense scent and thrives at a time of year where there is little scent in the garden. I particularly like that about it. It’s a sensuous indulgence in the deep mid winter.”
Sarcococca makes a great addition to a winter garden as it’s a tough, reliable plant that is very easy to grow. Perfect for a border, in containers or as ground cover it will grow well in shade. It grows slowly and gradually to form low-growing mounds of evergreen foliage and also has red and black berries once flowering has finished.
Apart from festive foliage for inside and outside the home, keep plants and pots protected from frost damage by wrapping containers in horticultural insulating fleece or moving them to a sheltered location.
Other top tips for this month
- Make sure there is food for garden birds
- Check that greenhouse heaters are working
- Prevent ponds and stand pipes from freezing
- Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas
- Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and remaining root crops
- Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted and transplanted
- Take hardwood cuttings
- Keep mice away from stored produce
- Reduce watering of houseplants