The weather during December has been astonishingly mild, and according to some news reports, the warmest for a hundred years. Generally it has been overcast with periods of heavy rain and blustery winds.
Make the most of any dry spells and get new shrubs and trees planted. The ground is heavy going but not water logged; generally digging is out of the question for now. The colder weather usually occurs in January and February but given the unusually mild December it is difficult to know what to expect.
When planning garden or window box displays it’s not always possible to position plants in full sun. Here is a selection of shrubs and bulbs that can be planted in shadier areas either in the garden or in containers. Christmas box is a medium size evergreen shrub with year round interest. It has little white fragrant flowers from December onwards and later produces attractive blue-black berries. Photinia (Red Robin) is another evergreen shrub, its new growth produces bright red leaves. It can be used as a single specimen plant or in groups and makes an attractive hedge. Photinia will reach about 4m but it can be pruned in spring or summer to keep it compact. Bulbs are mostly tolerant of shade for example Star of Bethlehem, Scillia and the Trillium Wood Lily flourish under trees or in spaces between shrubs. All three flower in spring. Hostas are a group of very attractive perennial foliage plants and thrive in moist, shady areas. At this time of year they are dormant, but in spring they push up strong green tips that unfurl into beautiful leaves in a range of shapes and colours (depending on the variety). Hostas have bell shaped flowers in summer, but are grown for their foliage which is loved by slugs and snails and so suitable pest control will be needed. Some of the summer flowering perennials/annuals will tolerate shade, plants like Campanula, the old fashioned Aquilegia, Lobelia and the sweet scented Nicotiana. This year’s winter garden is not quite so dormant; there are seasonal berries on Skimmia, Holly and Cotoneaster giving a touch of colour to the overcast days. But the mild weather has encouraged spring plants into flower such as the Mexican orange blossom (usually out in May). Rosemary is in bloom a couple of months early and roses have not stopped flowering! These blooms are now companions to the leafless trees and seasonal evergreens.
Happy Gardening in 2016!