Time is a gardener’s most precious gift. I rate it ahead of green fingers, horticultural knowledge and certainly cash, as without at least a few minutes a day in the garden we go nowhere.
Never is this more apparent than when I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, leaving a more or less shipshape garden and returning to something resembling the wreck of the Hesperus.
This isn’t a good look if you’re heading into December and want your paradise to look its best for Christmas, so if you’re short of time you need to prioritise.
One of my worst gardening omissions ever was failure to deadhead some irises that had been flowering during the fortnight leading up to a family wedding.
Noticing they’d turned overnight into a soggy mass I said to myself must deadhead those irises, before pushing off to do something equally, as I thought, important.
The deceased blooms then reappeared in the prettiest photo taken of my daughter on her wedding day, nodding knowingly at me over her left shoulder, and are enshrined forever on the kitchen bookshelf, a perpetual reminder of my failure to ‘do it now’.
I’m currently making a list for December and plodding through it.
Knowing a tidy garden always looks welcoming and inviting, an important job is to trim lawn edges and neaten hedges, like snipping off whiskery shoots of evergreen abelia (A. x grandiflora) and laurustinus (Viburnum tinus).
One of my worst gardening omissions ever was failure to deadhead some irises that had been flowering during the fortnight leading up to a family wedding
There’s still time to prune box hedging if you didn’t do it in November.
But play it by ear – if the weather turns hot and dry better to leave it, as cutting back encourages growth, something to avoid in hot weather as you only end up doing more watering.
Spring annuals past their use-by date can be pulled out, though I leave a few unobtrusive honesty, love-in-a-mist and honeywort (Cerinthe major) to seed for next year.
Summer flowering annuals can be planted in pots now to carry through until autumn’s first frost.
Petunias never fail – remember they need full sun to flower properly – and are lovely in the company of annual tobacco (Nicotiana) or colourful double begonias for contrast. However busy you are it’s always tempting to take stem (semi-hardwood) cuttings during summer.
If you keep a polyfoam box filled with your potting mixture of choice, it takes only a few minutes to pop in cuttings of stand-by plants like Rock Roses (Cistus), lavender (English and Italian) and grey leaved Artemisia, Ballota and Cineraria ‘Silver Dust’.
December is also the month to pot up tip cuttings you took earlier in the spring. Tiny new shoots indicate new roots, so cuttings need to be potted individually and kept shaded and damp over summer.
Rooted cuttings make great gifts for keen gardeners – very handy on Christmas Eve for a last minute unexpected guest. Don’t neglect the vegie garden in December, it needs watering every day.
Be sure to stake tall tomato varieties, and think out beetroot, carrot and lettuce seedlings. Final December job is to plant gladiolus corms, reliable bloomers for late summer.