The gardening coach: January

PUBLISHED: 10:11 01 January 2016

Japanese 'Cornelian' Cherry Tree in Bloom

Japanese 'Cornelian' Cherry Tree in Bloom


Judy Shardlow’s horticultural advice for the month

January can be a depressing time of year in the garden, so plants that provide a dash of much-needed colour are good for reminding us that there is life out there in early spring. For a tree that will inspire you through these darker months, I recommend the Cornelian cherry.

Cornus mas (above) flowers in February, with profuse, sunny yellow flowers on bare branches, which form a golden halo of colour when back-lit by low winter sunshine. Its dazzling effect is that much more noticeable because little else is in flower at this time, so for a brief moment it becomes the star of the garden. For the rest of the year it’s more humble, tending to melt into the green background, with attractive but fairly unremarkable foliage.

Although it grows relatively slowly, this cherry tree has the potential to reach about five metres in 10 years. But if your garden has the space for one, it’s certainly worth putting on the shortlist of trees with winter interest.

It will grow in a wide range of soils and in all aspects, although a warm sunny location will achieve the best flowering.

Five things to do in the garden this month

Help wildlife

Early spring can be very cold and creatures such as frogs, newts and hedgehogs could be sheltering in your garden. Resist the temptation to ‘clear up’ the garden until warmer weather arrives at the end of March, so as not to disturb these gardener’s friends.

Seek out snowdrops

Many gardens in the county open for the snowdrop season in January – it’s a great way to gain inspiration for your own space.

Service the mower

Smart gardeners get their mowers serviced in winter before the spring rush.

Prune wisteria

Prune whippy green stems back to two or three buds now for bigger, better flowers next summer.

Rejuvenate shrubs

Woody deciduous shrubs can be hard-pruned while dormant to get them back to manageable size. Follow with an organic feed and mulch in spring. 

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

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