January is a great time for me
– I ignore the garden and stay indoors by the fire as much as possible. I love indoors. With a good book.
And I do need the break to recharge. An obsession with the garden eventually goes stale without a decent break now and again. Avoiding the plot gives me a chance to see it afresh when I re-engage and this might be my best chance to see the shortcomings and, having had a rest, feel invigorated enough to put a design horror right. Maybe. But that will be in spring.
One of the horrors of the garden press, and there are many, is the obsession with telling us what to do. The ‘what to do in your garden in January’ thing. I do not enjoy being told what to do. So I thought I would generously suggest ‘what not to do’ instead, so that you can stay by your own fire and think kindly thoughts of me. Let’s see what we’re supposed to be doing. I looked them up so you don’t have to.
Repair and re-shape lawn edges
Ha! Well, I hope you know what I think about that by now. See ‘Edging’
Prune your wisteria by cutting back whippy summer growth, leaving only 2 or 3 buds.
Just how many times a year are you supposed to prune wisteria??? Three, four, more??? Abandon these plants: far too much work!
Start forcing rhubarb
This usually comes with the suggestion that you cover the (already planted, of course) rhubarb with a bucket or phenomenally expensive terracotta thing supposedly designed just for this purpose, for the wealthy. Well, I’ve never tried, even with a humble bucket. We have an ancient rhubarb plant which we inherited and have never forced (being kind hearted as we are) or even eaten. He doesn’t like it, he thinks. Though when he announced this at a friend’s, just before the pudding – of rhubarb – appeared, he did somehow manage to get it down.
But basically, if you’re buying rhubarb in the UK you owe it to the dedicated Yorkshire growers, who grow it by candlelight, to buy theirs and help maintain a very special tradition. So leave your rhubarb alone and if you must eat it, eat it later.
Squash mistletoe berries into apple tree branches to start new plants.
Well, I tried, many times and see no mistletoe appearing. But a friend of mine says he did it and it worked, so you’ve no real excuse to refrain from squishing. Sorry. Best avoid having any at Christmas maybe, so no Covid kisses…..
Clear borders and rake up leaves
Well, you know better than that too by now, I hope. Unless you have some delicate plants with no shoving themselves up to the light by themselves ability. Or apparently a plague of voles may cause your idleness to show in spring. But, hey! There’ll be space to plant something new then!
If your garden is looking a bit bare try growing a winter-flowering evergreen Clematis.
Hate to tell you, but it’s a bit late now to try cheering your garden up like that.
For a more unusual bare-root plant to add to your borders now, try growing Alstromeria from bare root plants.
This is getting bonkers – Alstromeria are hard enough to establish carefully planted in the growing season from a gently upended pot. (you guessed it – these were a plant seller’s tips)
Remove old Hellebore leaves to make the new blooms more visible as they emerge this spring.
Well, my hellebore flowers manage to emerge quite visibly with no help of this kind. I will post about this contentious issue shortly. Meanwhile here’s one, with leaves.
Aerate your lawn with a fork.
That’s probably intended to be a garden fork. So here’s the good news: lawns are now meant to look rough and natural, and no well tended lawn does that. If it’s any encouragement I have never done anything so mad and for all that, after 35 years, our grassy bits look green and healthy. (But they don’t look very lawn like)
Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already
Do not dig. Never dig. Digging is bad for the soil. If you must indulge in pointless exercise, that is what gyms are for. If you doubt my wisdom, read Charles Dowding. https://charlesdowding.co.uk/start-here/
What TO do
If you absolutely must venture outdoors, perhaps to play with your model railway, do bring in some pieces of Sarcococca, which, of course, you did plant earlier. If your climate and conditions favour it, a flowering piece will truly scent your room. You don’t have to stick your nose in – it truly is that good. Though, for some reason, the scent doesn’t seem to last long – a day or maybe two? It’s a great way to add extra to the pleasure of sitting by the fire with a good book. Enjoy! As those bullying waiters insist….