Fiveways Gardens...December 2014

Gardening is not always a tempting prospect at this time of year. It's quite likely to be cold and wet, and there are preparations for the festive season to think about.  Time, then, to decide whether to tidy the garden or leave it as it is. Traditionally, autumn is the time for clearing away what remains of your herbaceous perennials in your borders. These days, however, more of us have become interested in the environment and in more naturalistic ways of gardening and feel it is fine to leave these summer plants standing to enjoy their structural features.

Take Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant' for example. This is a clump-forming upright plant with fleshy green foliage and bright pink flower heads. In autumn the flowers mellow to a dark red and by winter they will have faded altogether, but they can still be enjoyed for their striking form, especially when dusted with frost - you never know.  Many other plants can be enjoyed for their form at this time of year including Echinacea purpurea, Phlomis, Eryngiums, Achilleas and many grasses.

By not over-tidying your garden you will also be helping beneficial wildlife to get through winter. Maybe you're not mad about creepy crawlies, but I bet many of you have a soft spot for ladybirds.  Given they can devour up to 5,000 aphids during their lifetime, they deserve a home in your garden. You can help them hibernate by providing a cosy habitat where they can hide out until spring.  I've noticed loads of them coming inside - far more than I've ever seen before.  I read recently that they seek out the same place they hibernated last year...  Back in the garden though, leaf litter and log piles are good homes for all sorts of critters. If buying a ladybird house is a step too far, you could just tie together small bundles of hollow stems.

So, with all this time you have saved by not tidying, you can instead put your feet up and browse the plant catalogues or think about presents for green-fingered friends and family. There are some great gardening books available for armchair gardeners, and one of my favourites is ‘The Bold and Brilliant Garden' by Sarah Raven. It has some stunning photographs and has endless suggestions for bright and colourful plants in every area of the garden. Or, for comprehensive advice on which plants go together, look no further than the RHS ‘Encyclopedia of Planting Combinations' by Tony Lord and Andrew Lawson. For junior gardeners, you could treat the kids to their own trowel and fork set; these are widely available online. Alternatively, the National Trust produces wildlife detective kits.  For ethically-minded consumers I would recommend, which has an extensive range of books, tools and toys for grown-ups. 

Wishing you all a merry Christmas

Best wishes, Lisa

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