BRIAN KIDD: Over the hill? Then dig up your fuchsias
I am always glad when we get to the shortest day of the year.
Only 12 days to go and we will be gaining a few more minutes of light during the afternoons.
The best thing about Christmas night is that it is three minutes lighter in the evening. And it’s light at 5pm on Auntie Grace’s birthday, January 31.
The cold weather has been a bit of a pain, hasn’t it?
We saw sub-zero temperatures for several days and many of you have asked me whether you should dig out pelargoniums and fuchsias from the garden?
If you live in Portsmouth and your pelargoniums and fuchsias are growing in borders right up against the house, they might pull through the winter, but if you live ‘over the hill’ it might be best to dig up all those which are not hardy varieties.
Trouble is that the greenhouse will then be full of dead-looking plants all through the winter. The over-wintering plants will take up a lot of valuable space and in a few weeks – February – we will need all the space we can find for newly-sown seeds.
Can we over-winter these plants without taking up too much space? Oh dear, this week’s article is feeling a little dull, but several readers have asked me about this in the past few days.
The best plan is to dig out tender fuchsias or knock them out of their pots once the frost has gone and shake off all the soil.
The fuchsias are now cut back hard reducing the length of every side shoot to two or three leaf joints. This is a bit drastic but will ensure they survive.
Each plant is now labelled and put into deep boxes and the roots covered in dry potting compost or peat.
The stems are not buried; little green shoots will appear on them in a few weeks.
The compost is kept almost dry all winter in a frost- free greenhouse.
Don’t forget that by using bubbled polythene sheeting inside the greenhouse fixed to the glazing bars, warmth can be conserved. And by using the same material to form a vertical screen it is possible to just heat part of the greenhouse.
Zonal pelargoniums are stored in exactly the same way and by cutting them back hard and removing every leaf, space is saved and you will not looking at a greenhouse full of dead, mouldy and wilting leaves all winter.
It’s a good idea to seal cuts on the stems by dusting them with sulphur powder to prevent stem rot.
To finish on a brighter note, the mahonia japonica is in full bloom. What a beautiful sight. But those leaves are really prickly. I was also pleased to see buds on the camellias swelling nicely. I’m glad I kept them well watered in October when we had that dry spell. In late summer it’s easy to forget camellias need water to ensure the flower buds fatten.
Christmas presents? Have a look at your garden centre; lots of presents for gardeners and no hassle or waiting at tills if you venture out early.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Did you plant hyacinth bulbs in October? They should have been kept cold and in a dark place. Now is the time to bring them indoors provided the shoots are four to five inches tall.
If you forgot to plant them, pop along to your garden centre where you will find pots of hyacinths with strong buds just showing colour. These will be in full bloom for Christmas and remember... they have a lovely perfume.