Getting Horticultural for the month ahead … and a little tour of Petersham Nurseries

I wrote this (longer) piece for the Petersham Nurseries blog (abridged) and it would be a shame not to recycle it here!

“You know that we are passionate about horticulture here at Petersham Nurseries, with new plants coming in every week now and plenty of activity in the gardens and glasshouses. Here are just a few suggestions to keep you horticulturally active, when the weather permits – we’ve had rain and hard frosts, dull grey days and bright beautiful blue skies and our thoughts are definitely turning to new growth, colour and fragrance – now and in the months ahead.

It’s a new gardening year and the opportunities for gardening will increase as the days lengthen and the hard, cold earth begins to give up it’s treasures throughout January and February.


  • When the frosts are at bay for a few days (but my, don’t they make the garden pretty), prune dead and diseased wood from trees and shrubs
  • Definitely hard prune your Wisteria this month to encourage flower production
  • Protect tender plants with horticultural fleece in cold weather
  • Cut off old leaves on oriental hellebores and plant new varieties
  • Start cutting down dead stems of grasses – you might leave this until February
  • Sow Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium in heated greenhouses or propagator and sweet peas in the cold frame
  • Sweet peas sown in the autumn may be potted-on
  • Prune shrub and climbing roses – aim to get this job done by Valentine’s Day.


  • Start forcing rhubarb. Mulch with well-rotted manure
  • Clear remaining spent crops and weeds
  • Chit potatoes, use saved egg boxed to keep tubers upright. Place in cool airy position
  • Prepare for sowing in the open ground by covering sections of the vegetable plot with clear or black polythene
  • Cover Broad Beans when freezing temperatures are forecast with fleece or cloches


  • Prune established trees (apples and pears) to create fruiting spurs – you can carry on with this until the end of March, but no later
  • Prune gooseberries and currants
  • Plant new fruit bushes and trees as long as the soil is not frozen
  • Spread compost around the base of trees and bushes
  • Check tree ties
  • Put cloches over strawberries if early crops are required


If the outside seems much too inhospitable, then make the most of your home and surround yourself with tropical greenery, bold foliage, cool blooms, orchids of course and fragrant citrus and all manner of larger plants, hanging and trailing specimens to banish the winter blues. We have our golden rules for success with houseplants but just now –

  • Give plants as much light as possible, not, necessarily sunlight
  • Do not leave plants behind curtains on frosty nights
  • Avoid dry atmospheres to prevent leaf edges browning. Mist and consider standing pots on moist gravel
  • Take leaf outings in heated propagator or place out of direct light on a warm window sill
  • The flowers of Amaryllis may need support
  • Keep evergreen Azaleas and Cyclamen cool and away from direct sunlight. Maintain moisture levels


Review what worked best in your garden last year and what changes you thought to make this year – read through your notebook (every gardener should have a notebook!) and photographs (ditto) – for detailed notes. And make plans accordingly – you will only get busier as the year marches and while there are very likely going to be wet and dark days in the weeks ahead, you can make good use of the time indoors, planning ahead.You may want to move plants, improve underwhelming displays in one area of the garden or gaps in the season you may want to plug.

But don’t wish the winter away – there is much to admire in a Winter Garden. The bare bones are free from distraction and can create a calm, classic and elegant silhouette that later are lost in the free-for-all that is Spring and Summer.

Fragrance, Flower and beautiful Evergreens

Fragrance is here aplenty with the rich spice of Daphne odora aureomarginata and sweetness of Sarcococca confusa – both evergreen with a siren-like perfume that drifts alluringly. Hellebores come early and can last through until April or May – and there are always new introductions to tempt. Bulbs planted last autumn may well be thinking about peeking their green shoots above ground, but if you missed the boat then, or want to add more, we have  an amazing selection of spring bulbs already potted up and ready to plant out in borders and containers.

Evergreens planted now will bulk up the structure and add to the bones of your garden and there are lots to choose from – classic box and other topiary subjects, Pittosporums and Skimmias, Hebes and Convolvulus, Rosemary of course and scented-flowering Osmanthus. Enjoy the season, wrap up warm and dry and get out into the garden.


If you want even more inspiration and a day out, then the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire have a superb Winter Garden. Closer to home, RHS Wisley has much to recommend and Kew Gardens are preparing for their orchid extravaganza which starts early in February.”


And as promised, a snapshot of the Nurseries just now – green, verdant, flower-filled and lush inside the Glasshouses and with plants for a beautiful, fragrant winter garden and much more for the Spring season …

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