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Winter Gardening Preparations

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Wetter, colder and frostier - Winter is definitely on his way, and it's time to start doing those last few things to protect your garden for the chilly season. Here with his horticultural know-how on the do's and don't and a whole load of winterising tips is our resident green giant, Eugene Higgins!

Eugene Higgins - Green Giant

I was born into Horticulture in a plant nursery/garden centre in north Co Dublin started in 1940 by my grandfather, so my excuse is, "that it's in my blood". On leaving school I worked in various Dublin radio stations and spent my spare time working in the family run garden centre, this soon reversed after spending an intervening number of years in Australia.

Over the last 12 years I have been combining Horticulture and media work.

In 1999 I returned to retailing opening Colour Green Garden Centre in Malahide Dublin, which won "Best Specialist Garden Centre 2002-Ireland". In 2004 we subsequently moved the business to Tullamore, Co. Offaly, where we have a lot more space around us and have concentrated on developing our Colour Green Landscaping Services. Our highlight to date was, being commissioned last year by the Afternoon Show to restore a nursing home's spectacular Japanese garden that had run into serious disrepair (Carrigoran Nursing Home, Co Clare)

Obviously the big deal here is what plants we can and can't save as we enter the winter months. Some will die naturally, some must be brought in doors, some must be wrapped up and the rest are strong enough to survive. Different parts of Ireland get different intensity of winter, but the following is a rule of thumb for nearly all areas.

Plants to bring in
One of the most popular garden and pot plants, the geranium can be propagated easily in the spring and will have given us a burst of colour all summer. Coming into the winter now, geraniums must be taken indoors before the cold snap to ensure their survival.

Plants to wrap up
Native, obviously, to Chile, the Chilean Palm existed originally in temperatures far greater than Ireland's and for that reason it is recommended to be wrapped in a garden fleece for the winter.

Plants that will die.
Your Petunias, and all herbaceous perennials (lobelia, marigolds), will die away anyway this winter. You could take a snipping to bring indoors and propagate it for next spring.
(Demo Petunia)

Leave out everything else.
Everything else is strong enough to ride out the winter. Winters in Ireland aren't too intense that the roots would need protection by way of mulching, so this is not an necessity. It is a good time, however, to move shrubs and bushes to different locations around the garden if you are looking to try out something new for your garden next spring.

Evergreens should not be cut back in the winter, but trees that lose there leaves can be tidied and pruned. Tidying of plants is minimal - for example, ivy should be left alone as its berries are for the birds and it creates shelter for wildlife and for insects. Hydrangea flowers are left on plants till spring. Lavenders need a one third trim so that they don't get to woody.

Weeds only grow once the temp is above 6'C, so a cold winter keeps them under control. Of course, you can have temps above 6'C quite often and this is how they can establish themselves. Modern thinking is that weeds and a wild area is good for your garden, so a PRISTINE garden is a waste of time. Leaves should be removed from the lawn, but they create a natural productive duvet for ladybirds etc. if left in the shrub beds. New leaves that have fallen should be kept aside initially from compost heap as they are to acidic in there initial stages.

Nowadays birds are fed by a lot of gardeners, but bread is of no benefit - it does fill them up, but has no nutritional value. Oats, raisins, cake crumbs or grated cheese is much better. A robin needs to eat half its weight every day so leaving seed heads etc on plants will help. There are specific bird foods for sale as well.


All plants are courtesy of Blackbanks Garden Centre.

Add: 754 Howth Road, Blackbanks, Raheny, Dublin 5

Tel: 01 8327 047

Eugene Higgins