Sydenham's gardener extraordinaire shares his New Year's column

News Shopper: Sydenham's gardener extraordinaire shares his New Year's column Sydenham's gardener extraordinaire shares his New Year's column

Talented Sydenham-based horticulturalist George Long, owner of landscape design company Well Grounded Gardens, shares his New Year's column:

Guilty Gardener’s New Year Resolutions

May I start by wishing you all a Happy New Year, and even though you may not find too much to do in the garden to work off the turkey, there is plenty of planning you can do now.

Don’t sit there, use the time productively - you’ll be glad you did the preparation work now.

Your garden only gives back what you put in, so start 2013 looking at it differently.

Early stages of the year are just right for planning.

Getting ahead of the game will mean you have a clear idea of what you’re doing.

Ask yourself, ‘what did I like last year?’, ‘what didn’t I like last year?’ and ‘what would I like to change?’ Become a decisive gardener, as opposed to an ad hoc one.

Here are some steps to consider if you want to start adjusting your garden in 2013.

Changing proportion of evergreen plants

As non-evergreen plants have died back, it’s the perfect time look at your evergreen proportions.

The basic proportion rule says two thirds of your planting should be evergreen.

This is for the simple fact when things aren’t flowering, there will always be something of interest in your garden.

You can then start to plan where adjustments need to be made.

Do you have too much?

Not enough?

Start making notes of what you’d like to take out or the spaces in which you’d like to add more.

Choosing plants

Start planning what plants you may want to use.

This way you won’t go to the garden centre, buy a plant, put it in a border and then wonder why you’re hacking it back with a chainsaw every year.

Measure the space.

If you have a 2m gap in one of your borders, don’t buy a plant which will grow to 4m.

There is no point trying to put an oak tree in a space suitable for a bonsai.

Many plants have considerably smaller varieties, so find a different variety of the one you want or choose a totally different plant.

For example, swap the huge Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (6mx6m) for the smaller Ceanothus ‘Burkwoodii’ (1.5mx1.5m).

Don’t rush - if you see something you like, make a note of it, research its properties and then go back and order it.

It’s not going anywhere so you can always order it or get it next year.

One handy design tip is to take photos of your garden, print them off, place tracing paper over the top and sketch out the shapes you’d like to create.

Then find a plant which fits those shapes.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) plant selector is a good starting point for those of you with little plant knowledge.

Visit rhs.org.uk

Seasonal tips for January/February

Remove germinating weeds, better to start now than get overrun when the spring comes.

Protect vulnerable plants from frost.

Prune Wisteria and shrubs to shape as with no leaves on them you can see what you’re doing.

Keep ponds free from ice.

Start to sow early vegetable crops and bedding plants under cover or inside.

Q & A

Q: Can I divide bulbs now - Sharon from Norwood

A: I wouldn’t advise it.

Even though it’s quite mild, we could suddenly see a drop in temperatures.

Yes, they could survive the disturbance but if the frosts come, the plants may not be strong enough to make it.

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