Putting the Garden to Bed

Round & About


Green-fingered Cathie Welch shares her tips on getting your garden ready for the colder months

I have always thought this was a strange saying as so much goes on during the winter months. Some plants die down but others are coming up as it’s their season. The animals, insects and birds all still need shelter and food.


Many plants actually need their annual prune in the winter when they are dormant like roses, apples and pears and many other deciduous shrubs and trees. Think about piling up the prunings or making a ‘dead hedge’ instead of throwing them out or burning them.

Cutting back perennials

Many perennials have gone over and look dead at this time of the year and it is tempting to cut them all back for tidiness. Think carefully about each plant as the seed heads that look dead to you can look beautiful in the frost and can contain valuable food for birds. The base of perennials can actually be protected in the winter, particular those that are slightly tender like Penstemon and many Salvias. Perennials at the side of ponds are refuge for amphibians. If you really need to cut them back consider leaving piles so creatures can hide there. Many perennials are best left until the sap is rising in the Spring like Fuschias, Hydrangeas and Perovskia.

Tender Perennials

Some plants need winter protection as they don’t tolerate the freezing temperatures of recent years. Hardy Fuschias die back but tender ones will die. Dahlias and Cannas really can be put to bed in the garden by covering with a thick layer of straw mulch topped with compost.

Autumn Leaves

I find the thick acrid smoke of a bonfire particularly upsetting if leaves are the fuel. This is especially tedious when leaf blowers are used. Rake the leaves up into a pile for hedgehogs and other creatures to enjoy. Mulch over the top of them on flower beds as they will eventually rot down. Mow them up on a lawn for exceptional compost. Create a leaf mould pile but do not burn!

Meadows and hardy annuals

A lot of our native wild flowers need to have the seed stratified which means they need the cold winter in order to germinate in the Spring. Consider leaving the seeds in the ground rather than collecting them or re-distribute throughout the garden.


Foxgloves, teasels and forget-me-nots need to go through vernalisation which is when the plant is in its first year. It needs the cold to stimulate flowering the following Spring.

Plants are amazing and a little knowledge can transform the way you think about ‘putting your garden to bed for the winter’

CGS Courses
Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops and volunteering. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene. Consultancy gift vouchers available too. Visit my website or email:  [email protected]

Warmer winter

Round & About


Adam Chapman and Patrick Wheeler of VitoEnergy Ltd in Aldershot offer their tips on how to keep your home warm & safe in the colder months

As the really cold weather approaches, our thoughts turn to dark nights and layers of clothes. On the home front, none of us want to wake up or come home to no heating or hot water – things we take for granted but when not working become an immediate emergency! Prevention is better than cure – here are some top tips to ensure your home functions well throughout the cold months.

● Check the room thermostat: Test the temperature accuracy of the room thermostat
by having an aquarium or kitchen thermometer next to it for an hour then click the dial up (or down if it’s on) to look for the position at which the click happens. You can make sure the heating comes on and runs around the radiators.

● Check the program times: Set the morning heating a little earlier so the radiators can heat rooms for longer. Hot water is often prioritised over heating so when the cylinder is regenerating the heating will be either off or reduced. Setting the hot water earlier will allow the stored tank to warm up before the heating is needed.

● Test the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: Check alarms are in date, placed correctly and have been tested. Make sure they all have batteries in.

● Radiator bleeding: Check them for air with a radiator key, feel around the front for cold spots to see if this is necessary. If the radiator has cold spots and doesn’t have air when you bleed it then you likely have some sludge build up and will need to call an expert to flush the system.

● Frozen condensate pipes: One of the most common winter call-out is due to poorly insulated pipes. When boilers are installed they (as of 2005) are required to be condensing, so flue gasses run at low temperature to reclaim latent heat. If the pipe outside has frozen thaw the ice plug with boiled water. There is no way of knowing if the condense is frozen other than the boiler showing a fault or not working, if you think your outside condense pipe is at risk of freezing then it is worth checking.

● Home insulation: Loft insulation is the cheapest way to reduce heating bills. For a relatively small initial cost you have years of savings, there are grants available for older and low-income homes.

● Boiler thermostat: If you have an older boiler and control, or a non-modulating controller, like Hive then this is a useful way to increase the heat output of the boiler or conversely save energy.

● Professional service and safety check: Although there are many things you can do yourself, you must use a Gas Safe registered installer to open and check the boiler or other gas appliances.

More info

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