You may think that the start of a new year is a quiet time in the gardening world, however there are plenty of things to do if you have an established garden or plans to put in motion if you’re a new homeowner and you’re planning your future grounds. Our gardening expert, RHS professional associate Darren Rudge is on hand to share his advice here, and you can also discover more hints, tips and guidance in our Gardening Ideas page.

Darren Rudge divider

“January, a time for optimism and new growth…”

To begin a new year, if you are looking at your garden and thinking it’s not inspiring, with little to look at and nothing to do then please think again and take a closer look. The weather may be harsh, but we still have jobs to do and plants aplenty that give us interest and colour if only we would look for them.

Although cold, frost and heavy rains can make work in the garden seem less than welcoming, January really is a month full of optimism.

Some plants that are brave enough pop out blooms which need to be admired and marvelled at. Now branches and stems are fully bare take a note of the wonderful silhouettes created together with the sumptuous warming colour of bark backed by the reassuringly solid forms of our evergreen plants; there is also no better place to be than in your garden after it has had a dusting of snow.

A blanket of snow can be a good thing in your garden; killing off pests and protecting some plant from frosts. Do however keep an eye on the forecast as heavy snow can damage plants especially conifers. After a heavy fall use a sweeping brush to knock off snow from plants that are vulnerable.

You may also notice that some areas of your garden get frosted more than others; in particular low lying areas. This is because colder air is heavier than warm and will always find the lowest point and cause frost pockets. It is important to note these areas and try not to plant things there that are susceptible to frost damage, such as fruit.

January jobs to be doing

After all those Christmas and New Year celebrations, it’s time to get active again and gardening is a great way to work off any additional pounds we may have put on.

  • Continue winter digging (as long as the soil isn’t waterlogged or frozen as this will damage the soil structure).
  • Get some manure or garden compost spread across your borders, this you can do even if the soil is frozen.
  • Check supports on trees and shrubs, and prune wisteria and other vigorous climbers.
  • January is also a good time to plan ahead; ordering seeds and other materials you will need as spring comes upon us. For vegetable growers; chit early potatoes and you can sow early vegetable undercover. 
  • Take cuttings from perennials and continue your pruning of trees and shrubs pruning to shape and size.
  • Plant out your rooted real Christmas tree (if you had one) or move it into a bigger pot to allow more growth throughout the year.
  • Check newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials; re-firm if necessary, as these can be lifted by frosts.
  • Make sure you have fresh water and bird food/nuts out for the local wildlife.

Star plants for the start a new year

Welcoming us into 2021 is an array of plants, and January into February is by no means a flowerless time. The bareness of this time of year is very often counteracted by the special plants that show their forms and colours. You may see the following flowering plants standout as you walk about taking in daily exercise, or if you’re planning next year’s garden here are some suggestions.

For flowers; Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) is a plant to be waiting for. On a cold January morning cup your hands around the flower and gently breath into it; take inspiration from the sweet scent your warm breath releases. Dependent upon the temperature don’t be surprised to see some Rhododendrons start to flower while Galanthus (Snowdrops) also will begin to flower along with shrubs like Prunus ‘Autumnalis’ and Lonicera fragrantissima (winter flowering honeysuckle) giving us both scented and showy blooms.

For fiery bark, take a look at Acer ‘Erythrocladum’ or the tactile smooth red bark of Prunus serrula that invites you to touch.

As I tell my students be inspired by the nature around us; after 40 years plus dealing with plants, I’m constantly delighted and surprised by them; all you need to do is look!!

Happy gardening!

- Darren Rudge

The Laughing Gardener

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