Japanese Acers, Birches and Vines will need pruning before Christmas to avoid the bleeding of the sap from the cut stems. Choose to do this on a day without frosts, so as to protect the plant as much as possible.
Root crops such as parsnips, leeks, kale, winter cabbages and sprouts should be harvested this month, ready for use with your Christmas lunch. Apply a dry mulch around borderline-hardy plants such as Agapanthus, Hedychium and Melianthus to protect the crown from the winter frosts and snow.
Start to reduce the amount of water you are giving to your houseplants. They require less water through the winter months, but keep an eye on any which are located near any sources of heat, such as radiators and heaters as these are prone to dry out more.
Container-grown herbs can be brought inside, such as chives, mint and basil. They will do best on a sunny windowsill. Apple and Pear trees can be pruned in December to maintain healthy growth and improve next year’s crop. Prevent any disease getting into your tree by ensuring your saw and secateurs are sharp and clean. Leave cordons and espaliers, they should be pruned in late summer.
Ensure outside plumbing is well insulated, even if not in use, including outside taps, ponds and drainpipes. Switch off and drain any water attachments, store them indoors if at all possible. If you have fish in your pond, make sure they have air holes if the water freezes over. A rubber ball left to float should prevent the water from freezing over. Unused terracotta pots need protection. Bring them indoors or store them in your shed until spring. If you have some in use, wrap them in bubblewrap or newspaper to help protect them from the damaging frosts.
Bird feeders should be kept topped up with fresh seeds and nuts throughout the winter months. Bird baths will also need to be topped up during winter. A kettle of water in the morning will ensure a non-frozen bird bath through most of the day. December is the perfect time to dig heavy soils as the winter frosts will help to break down any newly turned lumps, leaving you with more manageable soil next season.
Flamboyant summer displays may well be over, but there is no reason why your garden cannot look just as spectacular during December. Cornus are invaluable for winter interest with their striking winter stems and shoots. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ has bright red shoots, as does Cornus alba ‘Spaethii’. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter fire’ has gloriously bright orange-red stems, which are sure to create a statement in any winter garden.
Witch hazels are among the best shrubs for winter flowers. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ are both visually stunning with their bare winter stems and colourful flowers in yellows and reds. Team with the golden foliage of Choisya ‘Goldfingers’ for a beautiful winter border. Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ is a winter flowering climber, sure to brighten up any patch of bare wall or fence.