As soon as the clocks go back in late October my time in the garden is cut back as it is dark when I get home in the evening. I try to keep up with a few jobs outside when we get a pleasant weekend day. I have now finished bringing in any plants that I want to try to keep over winter and have cleaned and tidied up the greenhouse for winter. In particular I clean the greenhouse glass at this time of year to let in the maximum of any available sunshine. I try to get some winter colour in the greenhouse by putting in some primulas and pansies which will flower all winter in a greenhouse kept just frost free. The other plants which are now starting to flower in the greenhouse are the Christmas Cacti (Schlumbergera) and Cyclamen. These plants like cool conditions and in the greenhouse will flower nearly all winter if the minimum temperature can be kept to about 4 degrees C.

In the garden I continue to tidy up shrubs and perennial plants although, as I have said before, I leave major cutting back until early spring. I do not like to tread on the lawns too much when they are very wet as they are now so I will have to leave some of the borders to look after themselves until we get a dry spell. October/November is a good time to plant any new shrubs, especially bare rooted ones, in the garden as the soil is still reatively warm and they have time to make some root growth before winter really sets in. Also the ground is wet at this time of year so the shrubs do not have to be watered all the time as they have to if planted in summer.

The other enjoyable job in the winter is to look through the seed catalogues for ideas for next year. I use the catalogue from Thompson and Morgan as it is very comprehensive and the service has always been good. Over the last few years I have bought mini plugs,rather than seeds, of some annuals such as busy lizzies, petunias and begonias which I have sometimes found difficult to raise from seed. These have been very sucessful and are a cheap and easy way to raise a relatively large number of plants for hanging baskets, tubs, bedding etc. All you need is a greenhouse or coldframe to put them into when they arrive in early April.


Viburnum bodnantense "Dawn" is an excellent shrub for winter flowers. It is a tall growing shrub and a bit ungainly in habit but is covered with pink flowers from November to March (I think that this shrub is a must for any garden).

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