A good time to review the garden

Peter Dowdall sees this as a great time for a redesign as the bare bones of the plot are on show.

You may not be totally sold on the whole ‘New Year; New Me’ marketing messages that we will see over the next few weeks, but it’s also a good time to look at a new garden.

No, I don’t mean moving house necessarily, though if that is on your agenda then you will have a glorious opportunity to get to know and to create a new outdoor space, but for those of us staying put, it can be a great time now to look at new plans.

January is traditionally the month for what is aptly termed ‘armchair gardening’. Time for looking through the seed and plant catalogues and gardening magazines for inspiration.

It’s a great time to look at the overall design of the garden as you really can see the bones of the space, there’s not too much colour to distract you, the flouncy summer bedding has long since died off and the eye-catching displays are enjoying their annual slumber beneath the soil.

If your garden isn’t looking great now during the barest months of the year, then make this the year that you take action.

Perhaps not too much action is needed, it might be as simple as adding some well-placed evergreen plants into a display. Then again, it may need a complete overhaul. You may be just tired of the way the garden looks and that’s allowed don’t worry.

Trends come and go and our own tastes change as we go through life, so it follows that perhaps what we liked in the garden ten or twenty years ago may now seem a bit dated or simply no longer to our taste.

Be brutal, is my advice, if something is no longer looking at its best or you’ve simply gone off it, then whip it out and replace it.

If you have a cushion on your couch that you no longer like because it has become frayed at the edges, would you leave it there because it looked well — or because you liked it several years ago? I suspect not.

So why then would we look at the garden any differently? Get the shovel out or a strong gardener in, and take action. Plants are cheap (certainly when compared to interior decoration) and many will be free as you can divide much of what you have, so don’t hold back.

It’s a great time to do remedial or revamp work as plants are dormant and now is the time to move them. Do make sure that whatever you are moving comes out of the soil with as big a rootball as possible.

Even then, unfortunately, there is always a risk that you may lose them. The more established they are then the greater the risk. When you remove a plant with a rootball in this way you inevitably damage some of the root extremities.

It is here at the very tips of the roots that the plant absorbs water and nutrients through the microscopic root hairs.

This is where the magic happens, where the energy of the soil transfers into the plant.

During the coldest months when the plant isn’t actively growing, it has a chance to repair this damage before it actually needs to absorb water constantly again in the spring.

This too is why watering for the first year after a move is essential as the plant’s ability to absorb water has been reduced.

If your garden seems a bit all over the place with little or no continuity through the different areas, then a simple way to help to tie the space together without redesigning the entire garden is by repeating an existing plant.

A particular plant which works as a good feature plant can be used in several places and has the effect of creating some order and balance.

An established, herbaceous plant can be lifted now and divided into many smaller specimens and theses, if planted freely around the garden will do similar.

If you have forgotten what the beds looked like during the summer months or you’re not sure what plant lies where then take a quick look at your phone as the chances are you took some pictures when the garden was looking at its best.

If you didn’t then it’s a great habit to start doing so during the different seasons.

Then, when it comes to this season of armchair gardening and redesigning you can easily see what worked, what needs to be moved and what lies beneath each clump of sodden leaves and dead looking stems.


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