Jan 10 – ‘Lose the Winter Blues’

Lose the winter blues

WITH more than 35 years combined experience, Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith are seasoned garden designers who live in Bishop’s Stortford. They have won three consecutive gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show and are regular guest experts on the BBC’s Three Counties Radio, sharing their top tips and gardening advice. 


WELL here we are, the bright lights and festivities of Christmas have passed, its weeks until the next payday and as I write this article, once again it’s snowing!

But if you’re feeling a bit low and winter worn don’t worry, there’s much to encourage the soul at this time of year. Every day the winter’s shadows are receding as gradually the sun creeps higher, spring bulbs are already piercing the cold earth and heading skywards, some snowdrops are already in full flower and summer flowering bulbs are arriving in the garden centres.



Physically, whilst the weather is at its worst, there isn’t an awful lot that can really be done in the garden. Snow should be shaken from hedges and shrubs to prevent them from being weighed down and broken, check stakes and ties to make sure vulnerable plants are secure should winter snow be followed by winter gales! Keep the surface of ponds ice free by placing footballs on the surface or melting holes with the bottom of a pan containing hot water, keep feeding the birds and make sure delicate plants have a thick coat of fleece around them.


During any milder spells don’t be tempted to cut back any frost damaged plants, leave them as they are until the warmth of spring arrives. Leave dead or desiccated herbaceous plants as they are, should the cold weather return they’ll provide snug havens for birds as well as providing seed and berries for food.


Continue to remove leaves and debris from lawns but avoiding walking on them when they’re frozen or saturated and when spreading salt on garden paths be sure to avoid any adjoining grass, the salt will kill it outright!


If and when you can, scrub decking and patio areas with a stiff brush to remove slime and prevent them from being slippery; use a propriety patio cleaner or a weak bleach solution.


Make sure greenhouse heaters are set at the right level and working correctly to prevent your most precious plants from freezing to death and turning to mush. Some areas have had power cuts so it’s worth checking that they’re functioning correctly. Use bubble wrap on the inside of the glass for extra insulation and keep your plants on the dry side, many plants will cope with cold and dry but cold and wet is the death knell for many.


Although we all want to think about the plight of wildlife in this harsh weather in rural gardens you probably wont want to share your winter veggies with the likes of deer, rabbits and pigeons so make sure their covered and protected from voracious wildlife.


On beds and borders if the weather does allow then continue to dig in organic material, but avoid doing this if the ground is wet and heavy, you’ll cause more harm than good as it will compact the soil forcing out the air and making it more prone to waterlogging.



If you are snowed in then now is the time to peruse those seed and plant catalogues and consider what you’d love to grow this year, perhaps a brand new introduction, a challenging delicate plant, new varieties of potato or perhaps flowers to cut for the house.


Keep an eye on your house plants this time of year, provide maximum light, keep them on the dry side, except for azaleas that love to sit in water, keep them away from cold draughts and hot radiators and make sure the more delicate ones aren’t trapped in a pool of cold air behind curtains during the night.


Finally, just remember those first warm spring days aren’t that far away and although winter has plenty of time left to throw the kitchen sink at us, it can’t last forever.