Tythorne Garden Design is a well-established garden design practice based in South Lincolnshire. Serving Grantham, Stamford, Oakham and surrounding areas, we are qualified, experienced and professional. We help our customers enjoy their gardens more by providing beautiful and practical garden design solutions.
Inevitably, the start of a new year presents an opportunity for us all to spend a quiet moment taking stock and making plans. And, despite often being cold, wet and (frankly) a bit gloomy outside, January always seems to me to be quite a hopeful month, full of the energy and excitement that comes with a feeling of a ‘fresh start’. This is certainly true in the garden, although with so many of our favourite garden plants enjoying a period of winter dormancy the optimistic green shoots of spring can seem a very long way away.
As a professional garden designer, I am always looking to provide year-round colour and interest with the planting schemes I design, and so I always try to include a few star plants which offer us a real sense of promise during these first few weeks of the year. My garden designer’s plant of the month for January 2018 is a wonderful example of this- reliably giving it’s best whilst the rest of the garden seems to still be asleep.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a splendid large deciduous shrub that I firmly believe deserves a prominent role in any garden. Content in almost any position other than full shade or very heavy soils, V. ‘Dawn’ has dark green ribbed leaves, and gloriously textured and slightly ‘architectural’ stems. If truth be told it is a fairly anonymous shrub in the summer months, happy to let other more showy plants take the glory. But, come late autumn it bursts into life as tight red bubs borne on bare stems release clusters of lightly scented soft pink and white flowers. Simply beautiful.
V. ‘Dawn’ is a plant that provides a truly wonderful floral display over a prolonged period, often still flowering up to the point at which tree blossom begins to emerge and take over. It’s tiny flowers look dainty and delicate, but proudly withstand the harshest of weather conditions. They seemingly cope effortlessly with the cold, wet and wind of a typical British winter. In fact, V. ‘Dawn’ only really seems to suffer if weighed down by heavy snowfall, but then most shrubs are susceptible to damage in this way, so it is always worth shaking off as much as you can if we do get ‘serious’ snow.
V. ‘Dawn’ is largely maintenance-free, although I would usually suggest pruning out as much of a third of its stems on an annual basis. Simply cut them with loppers or secateurs low down to the ground as soon as the flowers have finished and the risk of frost has passed. Pruning in this way not only helps to maintain the plant to the desired size but also has a rejuvenating effect, encouraging new shoots and releasing fresh energy.
Ideal for the rear of a mixed ornamental planting scheme, V. ‘Dawn’ can also do a sterling job covering an unsightly wall or fence. It never fails to make me smile at this time of year, and I can’t imagine designing a planting plan without it. If you haven’t already got this plant in your garden you really must consider adding it for next January! I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
STOP PRESS: Tythorne Garden Design is delighted to announce that we have introduced two smaller sizes of gardens to our fixed-price design fee structure. Our great-value garden design fees now start at just £595! And don't forget that we offer FREE initial garden design consultations for customers within our usual working area.
Let's make 2018 the year that you really start to enjoy your garden more.
And so it is January. A new month, and the start of a brand new year. Although it is often overlooked January can actually be a fantastic month for the garden. Yes, we have the promise of longer days ahead, and the excitement of another spring to anticipate. But, more significantly, we also have the perfect opportunity for a little reflection and planning. What worked well in last year’s garden? What could we do better? What changes do we want to make in 2018? Time for a few New Year’s garden resolutions perhaps?
Inevitably our opportunities to be outdoors may well be limited by the weather. Given a dry and sunny morning, a few 'traditionalists' may seek to amuse themselves with hours of digging. I have to say, however, that I much prefer to occupy myself with the rather more relaxing task of enjoying the winter garden. Digging can wait, let's just take a moment to take pleasure in everything the January garden has to offer us.
I appreciate that the thought of spending too much time out in the cold may not be to everyone’s taste, but I really would urge you all to wrap up warm and go out and see what there is to see in your garden this month. You may be pleasantly surprised…
This month's star plants
Although we have had a few colder days and nights in recent weeks, our generally mild winters have meant that spring seems to have been starting earlier each year. Despite this, most of our herbaceous perennial plants should be safely hidden underground, and it is there that they shall remain for at least another few weeks. With this in mind, we have to look elsewhere for our January interest. It’s a great time, for example, to appreciate the role of evergreen shrubs and hedges. Clipped box (Buxus) hedges or parterres take on an important role as providers of winter structure, and few things look better with a light dusting of snow or a thick frost.
Similarly, a host of other evergreen shrubs perform well at this time of the year. Many Mahonias will still be offering some yellow flowering (and don’t forget their scent), and variegated hollies (Ilex) and Euonymus provide welcome splashes of light and colour to light up the winter scene. Hollies are also, of course, just one of many plants to provide added interest with their berries- that’s if the birds haven’t stripped them all by now.
A good selection of deciduous shrubs are also important to us in January. The wonderful red and yellow stems of the ever-popular dogwoods (Cornus) add a joyful dash of vibrant colour, and witchhazel (Hamamelis) and Viburnum x bodnantense provide both flower and fragrance. We should also not overlook two other stars of the January garden: Helebores (both foetidus and orientalis) provide spectacular, if modest, flower, whilst the first appearance of a snowdrop (Galanthus) never fails to brighten the day of every gardener.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the qualities of the many remaining seed heads and stems of last year’s summer and autumn plants. A heavy frost always serves to add a new dimension to these reminders of perhaps more colourful months, but even on milder mornings they provide important structure and interest. A dusting of snow is even more exciting, and I just love the picture above of a snow-laden seed head from last year's fennel. I always try to resist the urge to ‘tidy’ the garden for just a few more weeks so as to gain maximum visual benefit from last year’s show.
This month's jobs
Digging aside, there are a few jobs that can be undertaken this month if you are that way inclined. Fallen leaves still accumulate in January (but try to avoid walking on frosty lawns whilst clearing them away), and some plants do benefit from pruning at this time of year. Trees, for example, are usually dormant and so we have a good opportunity to prune out any dead, damaged, or diseased wood. This is particularly important following spells of strong winds or heavy snow.
Similarly, Wisteria benefits from having its sideshoots taken back to 3 or 4 buds to help keep it in check, with any new shoots being tied back to their supporting frame. It’s also a good time of the year to tackle ivy and other vigorous climbers that may be encroaching beyond their allotted space. Clearing errant shoots from drains and gutters is always a prudent task, and these plants can be cut back hard to keep them in check. Be assured, however, that this is likely to be one of those jobs that you will have to tackle again and again in the future.
But perhaps the most useful task to complete in January is to review the success of the design and structure of your garden. Even the best garden needs a successful underlying structure if it is to perform to its full potential, and now is a great time to see how your garden really ‘works’. Without the ‘distraction’ of abundant planting, it is much easier to assess the success of paths, pergolas, hedges and focal points, and I passionately believe that good garden design should function for every day of the year and not just a few months over the summer. For more information about this take a look at our garden designer's checklist post.
Maybe this is the year you’ll make the changes that will help you enjoy your garden more?
So, here we are at the start of another new year. What a great opportunity to review the previous twelve months and plan for what’s to come. I think most of us give a least a little thought to making resolutions of some sort or another at this time of year, and gardeners are no exception to this. We all have successes and failures, we all want to try to improve with a plant or crop that we’ve struggled with previously, and we all look forward to the chance to try something new.
With this in mind, here are my ‘top 5’ ideas for things to do in your garden in 2018:
1. Plant a tree
Somehow it seems very apt to take the opportunity to bring something new into the garden at this time of year. A new tree, whether it is fruiting or purely ornamental, can add so much structure and interest to a garden, and there really are trees to suit all tastes, budges and garden sizes.
This is still the season to be planting bare-root or root-ball trees, and there’s likely to still be some stock available at your local garden centre or nursery. Why not go and see what takes your fancy?
2. Create a vegetable garden
There’s been a real resurgence of interest in fruit and vegetable gardening in recent years, and I have to admit that I can’t image my own little garden without its (very modest) raised bed and seasonal crops. The joy of picking the first carrot of the season, or gathering home-grown rhubarb for a delicious crumble is hard to beat. Even a small or unpromising patch of ground can realise wonderful fruit, veg or salads, so why not give it a go this year?
3. Plant more herbs
Similarly, why not make this the year that you create a new herb garden? Once again it needn’t be big as even a few pots will do, but it is stocked with a few well-chosen herbs it really will pay dividends in the kitchen.
What could be better than popping outside to get a sprig of pungently fresh mint to go with the new potatoes (or even in a G&T?), or some sage or thyme for the Sunday roast? Maybe a bay leaf or two (I always find that fresh bay is always so much better than the dried version)? Pick a nice sunny spot preferably conveniently-close to the kitchen and you’ll rarely feel the need to dust off those dried supermarket herbs again.
4. Start composting
There’s really no excuse not to have some sort of home composting system. Whether it’s the full ‘bells and whistles’ double or triple heap system much loved by Monty Don on Gardener’s World, or a rather more basic plastic home composter to recycle the kitchen peelings that would otherwise end up in landfill, home composting offers a brilliant way to return goodness into our soil.
If you have really limited space why not consider a wormery? There are really simple to maintain, and produce absolutely superb liquid fertiliser. Wormeries are readily available online, so logon and take the plunge.
5. Catch the rain
OK, it may well be pouring down as you are reading this, but I passionately believe that saving rainwater should be a priority for all gardeners. I don’t think we can ever justify wasting water in our gardens, but I also don’t want to miss out on the pleasure of growing plants that like a regular drink when it’s hot and sunny.
If you don’t already have a water butt to catch the rain from the roof of your shed or greenhouse do please try to install one over the coming months, or maybe consider introducing one to harvest rain from one of the downpipes on your house? Online retailers, garden centres and DIY stores stock a host of water butts and harvesting kits, and it needn’t be expensive or difficult to install.
Of course, one of the joys of New Year’s resolutions is that they are personal to you, and so it may be that some or all of my suggestions don’t appeal to you. If that’s the case then I hope my ideas have at least prompted you to give some thought to producing your own version of my ‘top 5’.