Gardeners Month January


January is the first month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendar.
January (in Latin, lanuarius) named after the Latin word for door (ianua).
January being the door to the year, an opening to new beginnings.

The month has an association with the Roman god Janus who is the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology .
There is an old Roman farmers almanac where Juno is the Deity for the month.

The Saxons referred to this month as Wulf-monath(meaning wolf month).

The Finnish month of tammikuu means heart of the winter and also means “oak moon”. It refers to the oak tree is the heart of the grand forest.
With more valuable trees than a typical Arctic forest of pine and spruce.

This month can be a month with cold winds harsh frost and also heavy rains.
One of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the UK was -26 degrees Celsius in a Shropshire valley 10th January 1982.

The average daily temperature will be 6-8 degrees in the south and 2-4 degrees in the north. Often gale force winds associated with deep depressions crossing near to or over the country can be violent and damaging.
Snow can frequently cover high ground at this time of year although generally it’s rare in coastal areas.
Sunshine values this month can be short in the north on average about 22 hours where the Southern counties may get up to 57 hours.

The birth flowers for this month is Dianthus caryophyllus the cottage pink and also galanthus.

The birthstone is the garnet which represents constancy.

Gardening this month is very weather dependant.
You may find a blanket of snow covering everything or the ground frozen solid which can make it as hard as concrete.

Don’t despair generally things are not that bad and you can often find plants which are willing to open out flowers such as snowdrops and winter aconites which carpet the border with bright yellow flowers which shine in any winter sunshine.
Helliborus niger the Christmas rose is a regular bloomer at this time of year.
Also look out for Hamamelis x intermedia commonly known as witch hazel, these yellow flowers have a lovely sweet scent which can fill the garden on a sunny day.

Shrubs with coloured bark such as the Cornus or dogwood family look their best in the winter months.
The stems can be coloured in all shades from red yellow green and black. These always look good in winter.
One of the sweetest scented plants flower at this time of year sarcococca commonly known as Christmas box is one plant to look for and plant in a sheltered spot near a path or close to the house so the scent can be enjoyed.
There are some jobs that can be done this month such as making sure last autumn planting of trees and shrubs are staked and not loosened by the strong winds.

If snow does arrive brush it off any larger branches to avoid the weight bending and maybe breaking off stems or splitting them.

If weather allows you could finish any winter digging in the borders or vegetable garden.

Lucky gardeners with a greenhouse can look to start early sowings of sweet pea and Antirrhinum commonly known as snapdragons. These do need a slightly longer growing season so an early start is  advantageous.

It won’t be long until the days start lengthening out and you can start sowing more plants under cover.
It might also be worth the effort to cover one of the beds in the vegetable garden with polythene to help start the warming of the soil so you can get a earlier start over the next two months.


Check bird baths and troughs topping up water if required.

Watch for any weeds germinating remove as soon as seen.

Continue winter digging of beds and borders if conditions allow.

Check autumn planted trees and shrubs re firm if lifted by frost or wind has loosened them.

If snow arrives brush off trees if heavy laden and remove from greenhouse roofs.

Check any plants covered for winter protection, re cover and re do any loose wrappings.

Prune wisteria and any vigorous climbing shrubs.

Sow sweep pea under cover or in a greenhouse.

Take root cuttings from perennials.

Keep a surface area on the pond free from ice.

Sow early vegetable  crops under cover.

Chit early potatoes for planting in spring.

Start sowing summer bedding under cover.


Last chance to prune grape vines before sap starts rising.

It might be the middle of winter but there are jobs that can be done weather permitting and the sowing of new plants heralds the new season which is not far off.
A visit to the garden centre for a new seed catalogue offers inspiration for the new spring which is not that far off and if the snow is blowing a blizzard outside you can sit in the warm reading up and planning the new garden year.


A Winter Dawn.

Above the marge of night a star still shines,
And on the frosty hills the sombre pines
Harbour an eerie wind that crooneth low
Over the glimmering wastes of virgin snow.

Through the pale arch of orient the morn
Comes in a milk -white splendour newly-born,
A sword of crimson cuts in twain the gray
Banners of shadow hosts, and lo, the day!

Lucy  Maud Montgomery.


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