I am looking forward more than ever to putting up the Christmas decorations this year. Although I know that the clutter will eventually get to me, at least the house will look bright and cheery for a few weeks.
We have been lucky with the mild weather in November, especially after the sky-high heating bills forced upon us all last year. But does it have to be so grey, dreary and wet?
It would be so agreeable if we got more dry days since there hasn’t been any cold, as I could get much more done in the garden. But, I suppose this is winter after all, and the best we can do is to head out into the garden at every opportunity.
On one of the few dry days last week we began widening flower beds. The rotavator and a strong man did the work in less than seven hours. I now have beds that are up to 10 feet wide in parts. The frost and ice this time last year would have rendered this job impossible until the spring and I was grateful for this.
Having given my long suffering husband assurances that the wider beds would not necessarily mean extra trips to the garden centre to fill them, I am now waiting (again) for the next dry day to lift, move and space plants out (the sneaky trips to the garden centre can wait, like everything else, until the new year anyway).
I have done as much cutting back and tidying up in the garden as I can. Apart from regularly removing leaves and branches from the lawn, one job that I cannot do until it gets really cold is to prune the fruit trees. It is important that all growth has halted before embarking on this job.
I will be pruning new trees to train them. This is essential in the first four years to establish satisfactory cropping later on. The older trees are pruned for maintenance purposes and to encourage the development of new fruiting wood.
The basic aim behind pruning is to keeps the structure of the tree strong, allowing light penetration and air to freely circulate. All pruning cuts must be clean and having a sharp pair of secateurs is a must.
I was listening to Dermot O’Neill on the Mooney show last week. When asked by a listener how to go about removing a large branch from an apple tree, the advice was to call in a tree surgeon. Removing branches from the trunk of any tree can leave your tree open to disease and it is recommended to get an expert to do this for you.
The winter flowering iris, Iris Unguicularis or Iris Stylosa (pictured) has been flowering in my garden for the past couple of weeks and will usually produce its long blue flowers from winter into spring. If and when the temperature drops I will pick the buds and bring them indoors where they will then open in a vase.
It is perfect for dry impoverished soil but does really well against a south facing wall and is fully hardy. Its evergreen foliage can look untidy but this can be overcome by reducing the length of the leaves in early autumn and by gently removing the dead foliage from time to time.