In The Garden: Don’t let plants be caught cold

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WE’RE into the final push for Christmas and as you get things straightened out for guests or simply for a quiet day, think about moving plants inside for protection or to force growth so you’ll be ahead in the spring.

Forced bulbs such as paper whites (Narcissus papyraceus) are a common feature of Christmas decorations, providing scent as well as a reminder of outside, but other plants can be brought inside such as geraniums or begonias. Any change in conditions – even if better – will stress plants so choose only those which are healthy and disease free. Bugs will rapidly multiply in warmer conditions so take care not to give them a cosy berth. Also, try not to move plants to too warm a space in your home – a bright porch or cooler hallway would be ideal. A garage or shed can also be a good place to allow plants to have a dormant and frost-free period. Lavender (Lavandula) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) will do well in such spaces as long as they are not allowed to dry out entirely.

Plants in garden beds or larger containers which can’t be moved can be protected from heavy frosts and most snowfalls with a cosy wrapping of horticultural fleece. This comes in rolls, is easy to use and is usually just enough to keep frost nipping at tender shoots and spoiling either early spring growth or flower buds on shrubs such as Camellia. One of our clients also uses the ready-made fleece bags which are simply popped over the top of taller bushes and shrubs such as bay (Laurus nobilis) which are pricey to replace and slow growing should a limb be damaged with the cold.

If your inside space is too small for both plants and relatives over the festive period, you may just have to make a choice, or you could simply move outside containers close to the walls of the house as this will provide a degree of protection from the cold. Take care that you don’t inadvertently place plants in a worse position by putting them in a wind tunnel between two walls.

Finally, you can bring the outside in by sitting and planning your garden. Now is a great time to look at your dormant garden to see where there are gaps in colour or winter interest. Make a wish list and if Santa doesn’t come up with the goods, a trip to the garden centre may be the perfect antidote to too much turkey.

n Jackie Macdonald is a partner in Small Green Spaces, which specialises in gardening for small urban spaces using locally and ethically sourced materials.

• Log on to www.smallgreenspaces.co.uk for details.