• Handpicked Harrogate

December in the Garden

Written by Camilla Grayley

Spending time in the garden can seem like a distant memory in December. However adding lighting to the garden can create a view out of the window, something to be njoyed on a cold dark night. Why not add an uplighter that highlights a focal point, from the architectural outlines of a favourite tree to a piece of sculpture or a water feature. Adding some diffuse lighting to a path leading up to the front door or down to the end of the garden can look beautiful and you can create that Christmas feeling outside with a string of lights around topiary either side of a path or within the bare branches of a deciduous tree. Many of this year’s Christmas trends are themed around the outdoors and particularly the garden. White frost sparkling on grasses or seed heads (alliums, fennel flowers or any umbels look particularly stunning) that have been left rather than cut down in autumn looks delightful. If you prefer traditional reds and greens, hollies are stunning. Ilex aquifolium 'J.C.van Tol' is as self- fertile holly with spineless leaves and stunning red berries. In smaller spaces topiary plants give an architectural element whether using box (Buxus sempervirens), yew (Taxus baccata) or bay trees. There are plenty of red and purple flowering plants around at this time of year to complete the traditional Christmas theme, hellebores are ideal from the purple of Helleborus purpurascens to the red of Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harvington Red’. Cyclamen range from pinks, to deep reds and purples, perfect for underplanting deciduous shrubs or covering up bare soil. Cyclamen work equally well in pots as do violas which come in deep jewel-like colours including

rich burgundy and deep purples. There will be trays of these available in garden centres and nurseries.

Invoking other senses in the garden by adding scented plants will mean that even as the light fades you will still get a waft of fragrance, particularly if planted by a path or close to the house. Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) is a fairly slow growing shrub with evergreen leaves and tiny white flowers or choose a purple stemmed variety such as Sarcococca hookeriana. Winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ has an amazing scent and can be used as a shrub or trained against a wall. Stems can be cut and brought inside. Why not bring some scent indoors for Christmas by planting up Paperwhite bulbs, Narcissus ‘Ziva’ in time to flower by the end of December.

Perhaps add a gardening element to your Christmas list this year. December is in the middle of the bare-root season so browse the catalogues and drop a few hints about which roses you would like to grow next year.

A selection of new or favourite seeds make great stocking fillers. Gardening books are always good to get ideas flowing for your own garden, and you can never have too many.