The East London Garden Society

Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter

When the summer flowers have faded and there are a few remnants still going it’s time to put away the delicate plants for the winter, turn off the irrigation and let the garden rest from the cold for a few months.
Winter colour in the garden tends to come from berries rather than flowers. The Pyracantha berries will be around for a while and come in all shades from deep red through to bright yellow.

Roses and sweet peas still put in a bit of a show so there’s no need to prune them right now and there’s no harm in letting them go for the moment. The roses will have to come down soon but there’s a few weeks left to let them try pushing back the advance of winter with a flower or two.

The yucca is an unusual contributor to flowers at this time of year. The large white flowering stems fade into the background foliage slightly but they are still more spectacular than anything else going on at this time of year.

This time of year is mostly about getting protection in place for the delicate plants, especially those that are prone to cold winter winds roaring in from the river such as on a roof garden. Passion flowers don’t generally need it but some can be ripped to shreds by cold winter winds. In this case it’s the leaves you are trying to protect from the cold rather than the woody stems or the roots. So don’t cover the whole plant, just keep the cold winds off the leaves.

The same is true with lemon trees. In fact it’s important to pull the protecting fleece in around the stem rather than around the whole pot. Even though it is winter, plants will still need some water and if you cover the whole thing then you risk drying them out. It wouldn’t be such a problem with the lemon, but it could be the ruin of a delicate bamboo or grassy plant.

Do not completely cover delicate plants in pots either. Enough water will get through to keep things like agapanthus happy. Try finding a convenient place in the garden to put all the pots together and then make a tent out of horticultural fleece over the top. It doesn’t need to be completely sealed, just enough to keep a layer of warmth around the plants and keep the worst of the winter cold winds from nipping at the leaves.

Of course, it is possible to plant up a garden which keeps the colour going through until the spring. But the reality is that most people don’t actually go out into the garden too much over the winter so have your colour for winter in front of the windows where you can see it from inside.

For most of us other than going outside to take pictures of the snow, that’s it until the New Year. The snowdrops will come and go and the crocuses will be fading by the time we’re out there again. When the daffodils are in flower it is the right time to be pruning buddleia and getting the garden ready for spring.