Get gardening this winter

Richard Harmes is head gardener at Myddelton House Gardens, which is free to visit and open all year round
Richard Harmes is head gardener at Myddelton House Gardens, which is free to visit and open all year round

Richard Harmes, head gardener at Myddelton House Gardens, on what his team are up to over the colder months

Many people don’t realise quite how much there is to do in a garden during the early winter period.

If the weather is mild, for example, weeds will often continue to grow and herbaceous plants can struggle to reach full dormancy. At Myddelton House Gardens in Enfield, we work hard to keep on top of these things.

This is because the mid-winter kicks off with an abundance of snowdrop bulbs all over the gardens, including in the beds and borders. Such is our display of these wonderful bulbous plants that we hold a very successful snowdrop sale every year – the next one takes place on Saturday 25th January 2020.

Snowdrops are swiftly followed by scilla, narcissi and of course, crocuses. Edward Augustus Bowles, one of Britain’s most famous self-taught gardeners, lived at Myddelton House and was known as ‘the crocus king’!

We begin pruning our climbing roses in November, as the presence of sap makes the stems more flexible when training them to form a beautiful fan. This task can easily go into December, but as a rule we like to get them done before Christmas. Planters and beds are planted with a mix of tulips and spring bedding plants such as forget-me-nots.

There are lots of other jobs to be done during early winter, which I have listed below. You may see our gardeners doing some of these if you visit Myddelton House Gardens in the coming months. A gardener’s list of duties may never seem to get done – but there is no other job I would rather do!

Gardening jobs for winter:

  • Finish the autumn tidy up of leaves from lawns, ponds and flowerbeds;
  • Cut back herbaceous perennials;
  • Dead-head pansies, viola and cyclamen to encourage more flowers;
  • Prune deciduous trees such as birch, laburnums and Japanese maples to avoid bleeding;
  • Finish winter bedding if soil isn’t frozen;
  • Plant evergreens if it’s not too wet;
  • Plant bare-root plants such as roses;
  • Re-cut and shape lawn edges to save work in early spring;
  • Check winter protection on tender plants periodically, especially after a storm;
  • Provide some food and fresh water for birds;
  • Prune climbing roses, installing new wires and supports where necessary;
  • Apply netting over vegetables in the kitchen garden and remove the remains of old crops.

For more information about Myddelton House Gardens:
Visit visitleevalley.org.uk/myddelton