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Winter Gardening Q&A

Dear Shorefield Ambassadors,

Here is a little Q&A with the Shorefield Country Park Head of Grounds Ian. We hope you find it interesting and informative.

What are the main jobs to do in the garden during the winter months?

I think of winter as the perfect time of year to get ahead with so many jobs. The pressure is off because nothing is urgent, and we have the luxury of time to choose the jobs we fancy.

Bulb planting is the only really pressing job which, for me, often drifts into December. Because I like to leave as many perennials standing throughout the winter, it can be tricky to add bulbs to established borders so some cutting back is needed first – and that usually reveals a host of weeds to also clear as well as self-sown seedlings to pot up. These three jobs; gently cutting back and editing, weeding, and potting up seedlings, form the bulk of what I do throughout the winter working around the borders and finishing with a mulch of home-made compost.

It is also the time of year when we have embarked on any major projects such as digging out a new border or adding a pond. This year, we’ve no new borders planned but we are taking out two overgrown hedges completely. We have tried to renovate them, but it is not worked well so I will be replanting with bare root plants which it is the perfect time of year to use – they are a bit cheaper, and it gives them time to settle and get off to a flying start come spring. It is also a great time to plant bare root roses and peonies, both tough, high-impact plants that can give a tremendous boost to more difficult areas.

And then probably my final job for winter is to check over the trees and think about any pruning. We have lots of old apple trees which do need regular pruning to restrict their size.

What do you like best about winter in your garden?

I love the peace and quietness of winter. The overall structure of the garden is laid bare and so it is a great time to see how that works and to have the chance to think and dream up new plans and ideas for the future without the flowery distractions of summer.

What do you like least about winter in your garden?

The short days! There is a lot less time when you can get outside.

Is there any weather that drives you inside during the winter?

I do not garden in any weather. I am quite happy to wrap up and get outside in the cold, but if it is pouring with rain, it is no fun at all for me and I do garden for the pleasure of it.

What plants provide the most impact in the winter?

I would have to say deciduous trees. They epitomise what winter is all about when everything is stripped back and bare and yet can still be incredibly beautiful.

How can you add colour to your garden in winter?

I think the most impactful way to add colour in winter comes from using shrubs with coloured stems so in my garden, it is the dogwoods with stems of all colours from yellow to orange to red.

Where do you find inspiration for your garden?

I would say anywhere and everywhere. Visiting other gardens and reading garden magazines, but most influences I am unconscious of. I do actively look at what plants are growing wild around me when I am out walking the dog and I like the challenge and process of solving a problem be it what to plant in a tricky piece of soil or how best to look after and care for a plant. When I am weeding, I am always thinking and having ideas.

Happy gardening!

From the Shorefield Country Park Grounds Team.

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