Turning Leaf Garden Designs, have been creating and delivering beautiful gardens throughout Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and east London for over 15 years. Their designers are registered with the industry's leading bodies including the Society of Garden Designers and British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) and our practice is a Member of the Association of Professional Landscapers.
January and February can be dreary months. With the festiveness of Christmas left behind and the charm of the lights and decorations put to rest for another year the beginning of the calendar year can feel somewhat dull and empty with no sense of sparkle or excitement.
Very often it is the grey and damp weather in particular that makes us reluctant to embrace the great outdoors, and with that some rewarding and enjoyable hands on gardening tasks may be left for another day!
But now is the chance to counteract the overindulgence of the past seasonal festivities! Gardening guarantees good exercise, plenty of fresh air and replenishing the soul by discovering how nature is beginning to come back to life and discovering forgotten horticultural treasures around your outdoor space.
Of course, there will always be a list of essential garden jobs in preparation for the new gardening year like cleaning pots, green houses, patios, painting fences and gates, recycling your Christmas tree for mulch, etc. but why not start with a handful of gentle and enjoyable tasks to ‘ease in’ so to speak?
DISCOVER: The observant eye will quickly discover a wealth of changes in the garden since ‘putting it to bed’ in late autumn or early winter. By now there should be a show of:
Tips of daffodils, crocuses, bluebells, tulips
Snowdrops and winter aconites starting to flower
Sedums showing new buds
Ornamental quince with leaves and flower buds
Ornamental cherries in flower (winter flowering)
Winter flowering shrubs like Viburnum carlesii, witchhazel, winter flowering jasmine, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, Camellia, catkins and of course fabulous displays of winter stems from dogwoods
Image source: Gardener’s Path
Last year’s mild weather has caused some confusion in the plant world so that plants like hazel, for example, have produced catkins in November/ December, which are now enriching the winter months turning a beautiful coppery pink as they catch the sunlight.
FREE THE SPRING TREASURES: Now is the time to cut back Hellebore foliage from the previous year to help display their beautiful spring blooms. If snowdrops or crocuses, etc. are covered by foliage of adjacent perennials or shrubs, these should be freed so their full potential can be appreciated. Likewise, carefully rake away accumulated leaves to reveal these spring beauties.
BIRDS: Birds are also active now so listen out for their enthusiastic song and watch them relentlessly trying to attract a female for nesting.
Maintaining bird feeders clean and well stocked can be made a daily task. Feeders often clog up in damp weather causing for the seed to rot or germinate. A well-visited feeding station is a joy to watch. If there is no water feature in the garden then a bird bath is essential for attracting garden bird species. This doesn’t have to give a forced impression or needn’t look too utilitarian: an old weathered concrete or terracotta bowl/ pot covered in lichen is ideal and can create an attractive feature/ focal point within the traditional garden. Alternatively, a modern container can achieve a similar purpose in a contemporary garden. Let your imagination take hold and re-purpose something old or new!
Image source: Pinterest
WORKOUT: For gardeners keen to engage in more sweat breaking activities there is a plot to be dug over! Vacant plots or borders that have not been dug already could now do with some work to break up the soil ready for more cultivation in spring. This could go hand-in-hand with a cup of tea afterwards whilst combing through your seeds and planning crops for the year ahead.
If the garden contains apple and/ or pear trees now is the time to see to them which can also involve some muscle strength especially if thicker branches have to be removed. Usually, and if the tree is easily accessible and not too tall, pruning will be more strategic than anything else.
Make sure all pruning equipment is sharp and in good working order to prevent damage to branches.
EARLY VEG: For the practical gardener thinking about early vegetables to grow is an exciting start to the garden year. Now is the time to start forcing rhubarb, sow leeks, onions, broad beans, hardy peas, spinach and carrots under cover.
HARVESTING: There is always an excuse to go down the garden if there are things to get for the dining table so pick up a basket and see what there is to be harvested from your range of winter vegetables, salads and herbs.
Image source: bbc.co.uk
There are also some lovely flowers and catkins to pick from the garden that are wonderfully suited for indoor display:
Hazel and Alder catkins
The early months of the year offer plenty of opportunity to get active outside whilst discovering the beauty of an awaking garden, and, with a bit of luck, there might be some sunshine too!
Here at Turning Leaf Garden Designs we don’t confine ourselves to single private residential gardens, we also take on commercial work too, where it has a residential requirement.
Ensuring the quality of both private and communal landscape spaces is our number one priority and working to developer’s timeframes and liaising closely with other contractors ensures the new occupants enjoy a swift transition into their new homes and start enjoying their gardens from day 1.
Here is the story of our latest venture!
All Saints Primary School
The old primary school building is a Grade II listed building, located with a conservation area. The proposal included a sensitive conversion of this charming building into 8 stunning apartments, complete with architectural features such as mullion windows, fire places and galleried upper levels.
Our skilled and professional ground team prepared for the implementation of the approved scheme and familiarised themselves with the planting plans before the first day of scheduled on site works.
Soon as the first plant delivery arrived the team dived into action and with a flurry of activity as plants were set out and planting commenced within the hour.
Planting 100 plants a day is an average amount each member of our team aims for but with workable graded topsoil and the weather on our side, this can be easily achieved and, in some cases, surpassed.
Therefore, with a dedicated team of four, all the plants were in the ground within 3 days.
The most rewarding aspect of this job was undoubtedly the amount of interest, with nearby residents coming over to see the work that was being done and frequently making comments appreciative of how the landscape was coming along. Many of these residents remembered the building in its former glory as a school, and it was so rewarding to hear how pleased they were to see the quality of the restoration work.
Once the turf was laid and planting finished watering was the number one priority, which the Turning Leaf team undertook until practical completion and hand-over to the developer.
Now settled in the ground, along with the new residents (settled into the building) the landscape is looking healthy and happy. We are so pleased with the end result.
Following on from our articles on Early and Mid-Spring work in the garden, here are some top tips as we move into late April and the beginning of May…
By now days and nights should be frost free which means pruning can be done without harming plants and compromising this years’ growth.
Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering, clip box hedges and topiary as well as evergreen shrubs and hedges. Remember to check for nesting birds before cutting any shrubs or hedges to avoid harming our regular garden visitors!
Grass growth within lawns will be well under way by now and regular cutting is required. Refrain from cutting grass too short though, if it hasn’t rained in a long time!
It is now safe to plant out half hardy annuals, for colourful displays in containers and borders during the summer and early autumn months. Keep greenhouse doors and vents open on warm days to provide plenty of ventilation for seedlings and young plants.
Dahlias can also be put into the ground now, either newly bought tubers or overwintered ones from the previous year.
With all these long lists of tasks on your mind, don’t forget to keep on top of those weeds and continue to hoe your borders regularly, even if it seems that you have only just done it!
As springtime draws to a close those plants that have provided us with cheerful spring colour can now be put to rest for another year: lift and divide overcrowded clumps of spring bulbs and remove foliage as it dies off. Don’t be tempted to cut foliage while still green - be patient!
The weeks of spring never seem long enough to carry out those jobs aplenty around the garden.
Break Source: shutterstock.com
The thing is: do what can be done in your own time and enjoy - gardening is supposed to be relaxing and therapeutic!
Remember, Turning Leaf is always here to help! Contact us if you need a one off ‘Spring Tidy’ visit to put things into order (or indeed regular maintenance), a ‘Walk and Talk’ from a Member of The Society of Garden Designers to give you some real inspiration if you are planning a bit of a re-vamp, and if you think you need wholesale change, take a look at our Garden Design Services!