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Gardening coach: what to do in the garden in December

PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:13 08 December 2015

Anglesey Abbey Gardens. 
bokeh photographic / Alistair Grant.

Anglesey Abbey Gardens. bokeh photographic / Alistair Grant.

bokeh photographic - Alistair Grant

Horticultural expert Judy Shardlow gives advice on how to light up your garden

The illuminations last winter at Anglesey Abbey Gardens in the village of Lode near Cambridge made me realise what stunning effects can be achieved in the garden with simple lighting. In our gardens, we tend to think of lighting as having a functional purpose, illuminating paths and steps and perhaps the occasional feature tree. But if we view garden lighting as purely functional, we’re really missing out on the colour and drama that can be created – particularly important during the long dark winter months.

I’ve recently designed a garden which included lighting a 50-foot blue cedar (Cedrus atlantica), using a large blue uplighter sunk into the lawn. The effect was spectacular, with the intricate shape of the branches backlit breathtakingly in blue. But you don’t need a huge tree to achieve incredible lighting effects; small garden trees often have great structure and can look equally impressive when uplit. Warm or cool white lighting in gardens can look attractive, but why not be bold and try purples, blues, greens or even reds? It creates a theatrical effect, bringing a whole new dimension to a garden.

Five things to do in the garden this month

Spike lawns

Now is the best time to aerate compacted lawns with a garden fork or hollow-tine aerator. You can also brush in sharp sand

at the same time to improve drainage.

Plant a tree

Bare-root or container-grown trees can be planted now. Amelanchier lamarckii is a beautiful tree for a smaller garden.

Evergreen shrubs

We tend to think of evergreen shrubs as just green. But variegated shrubs such as new Photinia ‘Pink Crispy’ has stunning marbled green and pink foliage. Plant now for beautiful interest next year.

Wallflowers and tulips

Try planting perennial wallflower Erynsimum ‘Winter Orchid’ with beautiful flame coloured tulip ‘Ballerina’.

Plant heather

Winter flowering heather such as Erica x darleyensis ‘Kramer’s Rote’, is beautiful and lime-tolerant, so ideal for clay soil.

Judy Shardlow is an RHS award-winning garden designer and coach 
 01438 833858

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