December always feels like a slightly gloomy month, gardening-wise.  It’s cold and probably wet too. Although (at time of writing) we’ve only just had our first proper frost in this part of the world, real winter weather won’t be far off now.  (It’s no wonder that our ancestors liked to party at this time of year, to stave off those winter blues and hope for the return of the sun!)

But we should take heart from the fact that December is the turning point of the gardening year. From the winter solstice (21st December), the days start lengthening again, and we can look forward to the new growing season.  Here’s our pick of the top jobs to be getting stuck into this month – in case you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the Christmas washing up!

Planting

tree planting

Now is a great time to plant ornamental trees and deciduous shrubs, as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid or completely waterlogged.  Any time between October and April is also good for bare-root roses so you haven’t missed the chance to get them in, too.

Talking of shrubs, why not plant something fragrant in a pot by your front or back door, to give a little scent boost to this grey season?  Daphne odora or Sarcococca would make great choices.  (Click here to read the RHS top ten picks for winter-scented plants https://www.rhs.org.uk/garden-inspiration/seasonal/10-agm-plants-winter-scent )

If you’re a rhubarb fan, now is the time to lift and divide any large clumps.  Replant the sections in soil boosted with some well-rotted manure. You could also select one or two clumps to begin forcing now, for an earlier crop of pale and tasty stems.

Pruning & Tidying

tree pruning

December is generally a good time to prune woody stems.  Remember the mantra ‘diseased, damaged or dead’ and take those stems out first, then you can prune for shape. Try to prune on mild days; frozen wood will shatter when cut, making for an uneven stub that is more prone to disease.

Climbing, hybrid tea and floribunda roses (but not ramblers) can all be pruned any time from now until February.  Overgrown shrubs and hedges can be hard-pruned now, while they’re dormant, and many fruit trees will benefit from a serious trim to improve shape and their crop next year (although do check whether your tree bears fruit on old or new stems before diving in!).  Grapevines (both in the greenhouse or outdoor) can also be pruned now: cut back side branches to a length of just one or two buds to encourage strong growth next year.

When you can, put woody stems through a shredder so they will compost more easily but remember not to compost anything that is diseased.

Protecting

greenhouse covered in snow

If you haven’t already, December is about ‘battening down the hatches’ on your garden in preparation for the worst of the winter weather to come.  Even hardy plants in pots can suffer as temperatures drop, so think about moving them into sheltered spots.  Straw, bracken or fleece packed around the base of tender plants will help protect them, whether they are in the ground or in pots.

If you’ve stored away bulbs or corms ready for the spring, remember to check them occasionally for signs of damp (or mice!).  Bring in watering equipment or water features so that they don’t freeze and split (or drain them thoroughly if they can’t be moved).

If you’ve filled your greenhouse with tender plants, check on your max-min thermometer regularly to make sure your heater is doing its job. If you haven’t yet filled your greenhouse, now is a good time to give it (and your pots and tools) a good clean and disinfect, to stop pests and diseases lingering.

Looking Out for Wildlife

bird feeding

Although there are still some seeds and berries around at the moment, our feathered friends will welcome any food you care to offer them as well, to ensure they have a varied diet.  Hang your bird feeders near your roses to attract birds that will also pick off any overwintering pests.  And remember to put fresh water out regularly too.  It’s easy for bird baths and dishes to fill with dead leaves or to freeze at this time of year, so check them whenever you can. 

 

Looking Ahead

On a winter’s evening, when it really is too dark or too cold to get outside, is there anything more comforting than a nice hot mug of something and the gardening catalogues?  This is a great time to plan ahead for what you want to grow next year. Reflect on what worked (or didn’t work) for you this year and take it from there.  At this time of year, expect to be able to order seeds and summer-flowering bulbs, pre-order some plug plants, and order manure or mushroom compost, to spread over bare soil and give your worms something to work on ready for planting in spring.

Looking ahead to a new gardening year, now is also a great time to consider giving any garden machinery, like your lawn mower, a service.  Whether you are confident doing that yourself or you choose a professional service, you know it will be in good working order for when things start to grow again.

We wish you a very happy Christmas from the team here at Hambrooks and leave you with the corniest Christmas cracker joke we could find:

What is Father Christmas’s favourite garden tool?  A hoe, hoe, hoe! 

(Sorry!)

Testimonials

Hambrooks

Testimonials

N. Haggard 20 September 2022

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how delighted I am with my new garden.

Jon, my designer, listened to my ideas and delivered on everything I asked for. I wanted something different to any garden I’d had before, no lawn, no landscaping but packed with plants. He designed such a lovely secret garden, around a statement tree. And I have to commend him for his unwavering patience! I changed my mind a hundred times but never did he give me the impression that he was losing patience with my endless indecision. And my confidence in him led me to place an order for over £10k.

My landscaping team, Blade and Tony, were exceptional, from their work ethic, skill and knowledge, to the way they dealt with me, the customer. My standards are very high and I couldn’t fault them.

All in all, a very professional team of people. And it showed that they all care. I’m over the moon with the finished result. I will send you a before and after photo. Thank you so much.

A delighted customer.

G. Gray. May 2022

My front garden has been transformed by Andy and Bradley who both worked incredibly hard and I am delighted with the result. Andy had the vision and skill to turn my idea into reality and I can't thank him enough.

C. Haig Sept 2021

We recently had our garden landscaped by Hambrooks and I just wanted to pass on my thanks, not just for the outcome - which is superb - but for the professionalism of all the staff involved on the job who are all a credit to you company. Mike, Dave, Les and Adam.

H. Sharp Sept 2021

I just wanted to let you know how delighted I am with my new garden. Melanie was a delight to work with and the ideas she had have worked perfectly. Also Sheldon laid the patio beautifully and him and Dave were a pleaseure to have at my house. Quiet workers and polite.

B. Rendell April 2021

I would like to say how delighted we are with the work carried out. Mel, Paul and Tony all worked very hard, they totally took on board the specific need relating to safety as well as the general garden issues. Paul and Tony were excellent at consulting and discussing with me what I felt best in terms of the brief and adjusting if and as necessary, constantly pleasant and polite to deal with. Mel had picked up on particular issues from the first consultation and offered valuable advice. The outcome means a great deal less worry for me going forward.
Altogether a very positive experience and outcome which I would not hesitate to recommend to others.

Stephen March 2021

Dom and Adam's work (garden maintenance) is greatly appreciated. Dom really listened to everything we discussed very carefully and went out of his way to understand and then act upon that discussion. We are extremely pleased with the work done - both to the pond and pyracantha.

Marsha

We have been coming to Hambrooks for years and it's our favourite garden centre because of its friendly helpful staff and a great selection of plants and trees and the garden design ideas.

“We wanted to write and say how pleased we are with our low maintenance garden makeover. We are very impressed with the attitude of your staff who were prepared to listen to our requirements. Your team John and Rick brushed up and left everything tidy at the end of the day. We now have a garden we can manage and it looks great. THANK YOU HAMBROOKS.”

Mr & Mrs Venables, Southampton. April 2019

“Dear Josh & Mike We just want to say you both did a brilliant job of designing our garden along with the guys who did the work who were amazing. A few weeks on its looks even better now some of the plants are blooming. Thank you!!”

Mr & Mrs Gazzard, Winchester July 2019

“To James, John & Rikki. Thank you so much, we are delighted with our new garden. We really appreciate the attention to detail, the high quality workmanship and the standard of the finished project. We are amazed at how John & Rikki resolved the difficulties of the site and by the quality of their craftmanship. It was a pleasure to work with them and thank you for making our ideas into something we will enjoy for years to come.”
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