Potted Gardener: Christmas gifts from your winter garden

Bright winter stems add Christmas colour to your garden
Bright winter stems add Christmas colour to your garden

Your garden gives up some beautiful gifts of its own at this time of year, allowing you to bring the outside into the home with foliage and ‘green’ decorations.

By using your garden as a resource you can create some simple, yet beautiful decorative displays for the Christmas festivities.

A great use for your winter prunings is to arrange bare or lichen-covered twigs in a tall glass vase and festoon with tea light holders or use lengths of trailing ivy and evergreen foliage twisted into swags for looping along mantelpieces or winding round banisters.

Sprigs of aromatic leaves and herbs – bay, rosemary, sage, thyme and anything else you can lay your hands on – arranged around a large candle on a deep fluted dish to make a fragrant table centre piece.

If you can’t source your Christmas greenery from your own garden that take a trip down to your local garden centre where you’ll find just about everything you need.

Small living Christmas trees can be bought in pots for children – so that each year they can be brought inside for the festivities and be part of your Christmas tradition.

Alternatively, you can buy a larger living tree and when Christmas is over plant it in a good position in the garden allowing for future growth.

In the depths of winter, the quiet charms of plants with strikingly coloured bark come into their own.

Textures and stem colours of trees and shrubs attract the eye and brighten the winter gloom.

By planting, for example, dogwoods, snake bark maples, willows and white washed brambles, you can create a stunning winter effect in any garden or landscape.

Most winter stems are best planted in groups to maximise their impact and in locations where they can be seen and appreciated.

They perform well in full sun and in deep, moist, loamy soil so try to avoid shallow and chalky soils.

Dogwood and willow shrubs will need pruning each year in March, almost to ground level, to ensure that a fresh crop of the brightest coloured stems are produced in the next winter.

December is definitely a time to catch up on some indoor gardening jobs and have a rest.

But there are some jobs to be done in the garden, including carrying on harvesting winter crops such as parsnips, kale, leeks, sprouts (don’t forget to pick sprouts from the bottom of the stalk upwards).

Collect all empty plant pots and seed trays together and wash them ready for next year, together with garden tools

Collect the rest of the leaves that have fallen from the trees for composting as leaf mould

Do some early wrapping by covering any large outside containers with bubblewrap, fleece or hessian, to help prevent the pots cracking in the cold frosty weather.

Don’t be too much of a tidy gardener – leave some seed heads and berries on plants for animals and birds to eat.

And provide clean water for wildlife to drink.