GARDENERS MONTH DECEMBER
December is the twelve month of the year, but it was not always.
The Roman calendar was 10 months prior to January and February being added.
The origin comes from decem – ten.
The Anglo Saxons called both December and January ‘Giuli’(or Yules).
The birth stone for the month is Turquoise regarded as a love charm and is also a symbol of good fortune.
The Narcissus is the months birth flower which can often be confused with the daffodil, the birth flower of March which is a type of narcissus.
We can’t mention December without Christmas and a visit from Santa who every year delivers presents worldwide to eagerly expectant children and adults alike.
December is a month where days are short and nights are long.
But all is not doom and gloom.
The weather this month can give wonderfully clear frosty days with sun shining down.
This brings a sparkle to any bare stems and trees with frost on them, they shine out and sparkle transforming what can be something boring to look at into something worth taking a photo of.
Snow can show itself this month as we get more winds from a northerly direction.
So keep a look out and if the weight of snow is bending branches on trees and large shrubs gently knock it off so you don’t have any limbs breaking.
Colour this month is not all bleak as there are some plants still showing their best such as Jasminum nudiflorum which usually flowers this month.
Also look out for Hamamelis mollis and Iris unguicularis which can cheer the month up.
There are still jobs which can be done in the garden although the pace can be much more gentle now.
The urgency of spring is still some way off.
Winter pruning of fruit trees can be done now and also any major pruning of ornamental deciduous trees, these will be dormant now and many being leafless, you can find it much easier to see what you are doing.
While these trees and shrubs are bare it is much easier to see any diseased wood on stems which again can be cut out or cut back.
These cuttings can be burned on a bonfire in the garden so as not to spread disease any further.
Do not cut back any of the Cornus or dogwood family who’s colourful stems at this time of year bring very welcome colour. Prune these in the spring of the year.
If you did not complete the winter digging this could continue if weather permits and ground is not frozen or snow covered.
You may find if you are out digging you have a visit from one of the garden favourites the Robin who may be out looking for a worm or two as a free meal.
Don’t forget the birds this month, put out food and water making sure it is not frozen over as our friends will still need a drink.
If you are fortunate to have a greenhouse, if you have not already done so. Put up insulation for conserving heat and frost protection in readiness for early sowing of sweet pea beans and bedding plants for next season.
Let’s go indoors and consider plants for the house over Christmas.
Garden centres are bursting with flowering pot plants to bring colour and spectacle indoors.
Some of the favourites at this time of year Azaleas, Cyclamen, Poinsettias and Solanum capsicastrum(the winter cherry).
When the weather really is too bad for gardening why not retire to the armchair and start planning ahead. Remember spring is not far off.
Once we pass December 21st the days will start to get longer again
JOBS FOR THE MONTH
Prune woody ornamental plants and fruit trees.
Continue winter digging and add manure if weather allows.
Repair fencing and clean paths to stop them getting slimy and green with algae.
Insulate greenhouses in preparation of spring.
Sow some early crops in the greenhouse to plant out in the new year.
Feed birds and give fresh water when the weather is cold.
Water and feed any pot plants indoors for Christmas.
December is not always stormy and cold so still get out there and enjoy the windless sunny days.
In the bleak mid winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone,
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid winter,
“Christina Rossetti” (1830-1894).
So I now wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year .
Look forward to the new year and the anticipation of spring 2018.