Wonderful winter gardens

JUST because the trees are bare and there is dew on the ground, it doesn't mean that your garden has to become a winter wasteland.

JUST because the trees are bare and there is dew on the ground, it doesn't mean that your garden has to become a winter wasteland.

A well-planned garden will provide year-round interest and visual treats. Many evergreens and hardy ornamental grasses can be quite stunning in the colder months.

But perhaps nothing can compare with the vibrant colour of Camellia Japonica during the winter. This shrub has usually red, five-petalled flowers.

According to The Gardener magazine, Camellia Japonica - these small, neat trees or large shrubs with glossy, dark-green leaves - become floral treasures and, depending on the climate and the variety, their flowering period can extend well into spring.

The Gardener suggests planting them in large containers in bright shade and gentle sun.

A great planting combination with Camellias would be a mass of Primula Malacoides in the foreground, bordered by icy blue-grey Festuca Glauca - a lovely ornamental grass that also comes into its own in cool weather.

Winter gardening tips

l Succulent baskets - mix different varieties together.

l Geranium baskets - go for the bold colours of the trailing varieties.

l Salad baskets - include some violas as they are edible.

l Huge jasmine baskets - fill them with Jasmimum Polyanthum (Chinese jasmine).

l Grass baskets - full of different ornamental grasses.

Your lawn

Keep watering over-seeded lawns and those planted with cool season grass, which grows throughoutwinter.

Bugs, pests and problems

Keep spraying conifers against Italian aphids. You can also use systemic insecticide granules around their bases. Be sure to water them into the soil. Winter grass, a tufted, bright green grass, can become a problem on lawns, but it dies off naturally when the weather warms. If it becomes too much to handle, you can kill it with a selective herbicide, but keep in mind that small birds often survive the winter by feeding on the seed it produces.

Must do

Although watering is a low priority in winter, you cannot stop watering altogether, especially winter-flowering plants like azaleas, magnolias, flowering quinces, wisterias, confetti bushes and emerging spring bulbs.

Start planning your spring and early summer-flowering garden by sowing the seeds of marigolds, petunias, cosmos and cleomes in seed trays.

Protect the trays from the cold with a small tunnel made of clear plastic or an old piece of window glass. Keep them in a warm, but not sunny, spot. The young seedlings must only be planted out when the soil starts heating up again.

Lily bulbs are already available. Plant them in compost-rich soil to which have been added a handful of bone meal. Bulbs prefer good drainage so it is always a good idea to add some coarse river sand to the bottom of the planting hole. If moles are a problem, plant the bulbs in plastic or wire baskets sunk into the soil.

It is not too late to dig up and divide thick clumps of ornamental mondo grass. Split them into small clumps for replanting in freshly-composted soil.