January: signs and wonders

If you really look, January can be full of surprises - and they can be a lot nicer than the one you get glancing at a Christmas credit card balance.

When heaping my vegetable peelings into the compost bin yesterday I saw a green woodpecker (which, confusingly has a red streak on its head) pecking its way into the lawn looking for ants. Beautiful. A variety of birds, including other types of woodpeckers can be attracted to your garden by drilling holes into a small log and filling it with suet or another cooked food mix and then hanging it somewhere away from predators.

Another surprise has been the vibrancy of the green in the emerging Helleborus and the purple glow of Cyclamen in the fading Hampshire light. These are welcome reminders that the shortest days are now over and more life and light are to come.

Daffodils are now beginning to show their shoots - so mind where you step on the lawn! Shrubs such as Hamamelis (witch hazel), Chimonanthus (winter sweet) and Sarcoccocca (winter box) are now flowering in all their scented glory.

So when you are not out sniffing (or in some cases, sniffling), there are plenty of jobs to do to work off your own personal Christmas glory:

  • Remove old leaves from hellebores in order to show off the emerging new flowers.
  • Re-cycle your Christmas tree rather than just binning it.
  • Tie in wall shrubs and climbers cutting back ivy and virginia creepers where they are encroaching on windows and gutters.
  • Prune wisteria in the next few months to two or three buds from the old wood.
  • Check tree ties and stakes are secure, especially after these high winds.
  • Sweep worm casts on the lawn and fork any areas that are becoming waterlogged. 
  • Prune apple trees and pears. For more advice on how to do this look up:  www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=90
  • If the temperature really drops then make sure your more tender plants including peaches and nectarines are covered with a fleece or polythene.

With all the packaging that comes our way over Christmas there will be plenty of material such as bubble-wrap to use as insulation where it is needed. And there is no loss of face in wearing two pairs of socks, gloves and underlay to keep up your own insulation, especially when it is damp.

Talking of faces, I wear a good old balaclava when the wind is at its most biting. Please don’t then do what I did which was to cycle through Romsey town with a black tool tube tied to you back.

Not the brightest things to do unless you want to look like are going to start the New Year with a bang.