|The Garden in
January 2008 has been one of the coldest in recent years with 2 weeks of frost and frozen ground at the beginning and the threat of snow at its end. One positive thing is we should have fewer greenfly this summer. In November we looked which perennials to cut back and which to leave until later. In this cold winter the birds have appreciated some of those we left, particularly a stand of Verbena bonariensis and Nepeta tuberosa. These have fed many blue tits, goldfinches and a first for us: Redpolls, this January.
Now is probably the time to cut back most plants if you haven't done so already. Asters don't need cutting - just a sharp push towards the ground and they snap off nicely. Molinia is very obliging as it falls over in high winds, detaching the old stems at the base.
By the end of the month new growth is starting to push through the ground. Phlox paniculata are coming through and it is easy to chop off a few pieces from the side of a healthy clump and pot them up for later.
Its also best to clear away mushy leaves from evergreen plants that can't quite keep their leaves through heavy frost - Morina (Whorlflower) is one of these- (but wear gloves because the spines don't go soft and mushy!).
Kniphofia sarmentosa is having another go at flowering this winter. Last January it was blown over by severe gales. This year snow is threatened for the beginning of February, so we'll have to keep our fingers crossed.
Janet has trays and trays of fresh seedlings filling our cold greenhouse, and nearly every windowsill in the house. We've found the ideal germination temperature is obtained on the work tops above our central heating boiler. When sowing indoors it is important, firstly not to bury the seed too deeply - a lot less deep than the packets say and secondly to water or spray with water every day - they dry out so quickly.