Get gifts from the garden this December

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As we near the festive season, look no further than your garden for the gift of simple yet beautiful decorative displays.

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 then 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 create your own permanent Christmas decoration in the garden. Buy a larger living Christmas tree and plant it in a good position allowing for future growth. You need to plant it no later than the beginning of January.

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 for those who are out and about, the Royal Horticultural Society has the following some tips:

  • Carry 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 bubble wrap, 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
  • Provide clean water for wildlife to drink