Alpine plants often rot in damp, cool temperate climates, with succulents and rosette plants the most vulnerable. Protect them from rain and provide good ventilation by laying a sheet of Perspex or glass, supported by a couple of bricks or a cloche, over the plants keeping it well away from the foliage. Ideally they should be covered from late Autumn onwards, so if you’ve not covered yours, do so now before it’s too late.
The first few days of January is the time of year to prune grapes, their sap starts flowing very early in the year and they bleed profusely if pruned once it has started. Vines fruit on the current year’s growth, so you need to create a framework of older wood from which the new shoots can grow. If your vine has not been trained in the past, select several large stems to form a main framework, then using a sharp pair of secateurs cut back last year’s stems growing from this to one bud, and tie in the main stems. You will need to thin out the new growth several times over the year and tie the new shoots into wires, to prevent the stems from becoming congested, encouraging powdery mildew.
While you are out in the garden, feed your gooseberries red and white currants with sulphate of potash at 25g per square metre. If you have a log burning fire or stove, save the wood ash and spread copious amounts around the roots on a still day, tehn dampen the ash down so it does not blow around the garden.
As the New Year threatens to start with strong winds, check that protective fleece has not been blown off your tender plants. My Canna edulis became so large last year that it was too large to lift out of the ground. It’s planted in a raised border in organic rich soil and been covered with a huge pile of bark chippings and a sheet of black polythene for protection. As it is in a sheltered corner of the garden, I hope the combination of free draining soil and a thick layer of forest bark provides adequate protection. It should make an interesting and hopefully, successful, experiment.
It is a good time of year to renovate beech and hawthorn hedges, when it is easier to see what you’re doing. Use a sharp saw, pruners and wear protective clothing.
While you’re in the garden, check tree ties and replace, slacken or remove them if necessary. Last year was one of the best growing seasons we’ve had for years, so your trees will almost certainly have increased in girth. I have removed the stake and ties from a Prunus x maacki ‘Amber Beauty’ in the garden, being deciduous, it is not affected by the strong wind. Firm any newly planted trees or shrubs that have been loosened by the strong winds.
Finally, if you are growing fragrant winter flowers like Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and Chimonanthus praecox, the wintersweet, cut a few sprigs, bring them into the house and enjoy the fragrance and a bunch of snowdrops, too.
Happy New Year and good gardening! Matt