January in the Garden

Frost brings beauty to the garden. We have less of it with climate change I recall January as a frozen month when I lived in the north years ago. It is a necessary friend as well as a danger to the less hardy plants. By leaving seed-heads on the plants in autumn for the birds to feast as the colder days come you are not only helping them but allowing them to help the plant as they inevitably spill some seeds out onto the ground to catch the frost. The tits and finches will particularly love the North American evening primrose which needs frost to break the dormant state of the seeds and give germination. Sweet cicely is a herb growing naturally in the north east of England and in Scotland which also needs frost and Angelica archangelica offering a feast for birds in autumn is best left to fall from the plant for nature to germinate.

If you are starting a new plant for your garden that needs frost for germination, perhaps one a little more difficult to grow such as the North American Baptisia tinctoria, January may be a last call to sow these seeds in a tray or pots of mixed soil and compost and cover with tiny stones to maintain moisture. Set these outside in an exposed place where you can keep an eye on them. Then enjoy the beauty frost brings to the garden and countryside, it has a positive role to play.

It may seem little is happening in the garden this month but during this time of short days nature is already preparing for harvests to come. As I top up my bark path next to the tall garden hedge I look up into the hazel branches for the first glimpse of the tiny bright red female flowers. The male catkins have hung from the branches since autumn, waiting to leap into life with bright yellow pollen, grabbing our attention, so that it takes care to pick out the miniature, modest perfection of the female.

While thinking about plans for the coming year in the garden, making any structural changes, and ordering seeds, it is too early to start sowing many. Plants you are over-wintering may need extra help meanwhile and can also offer wonderfully uplifting fragrance and harvests. Plants can suffer from January blues too, you can give them extra help if any that start to droop and look unhappy, firstly by making sure they have as much light as possible. Secondly a couple of drops of the Bach flower Olive remedy in rainwater which you have kept in room temperature overnight will give them a boost.

When you are over wintering scented geraniums in a conservatory, green house or your sitting room, do not discard the dried brown leaves, they will have retained their fragrance if you have not left them too long and can be stored in an airtight container for use in pot-pourri. If plants need trimming back you will find uses for scented lemon and rose geranium and lemon verbena leaves in the blog for January in the home.


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