December - Plant away the winter blues

Wrap-up warm and get outside this month to enjoy the winter garden at its best. From delicate flowers and intoxicating fragrances to evergreen foliage and tactile barks, bright jewel-like fruits and berries, and many more delights of the natural world.

Winter displays come to life on sunny days, but for a moment of magic pop out early after a hard frost to appreciate the transient transformation of leaves and buds coated by ice crystals. Hardy plants can naturally withstand a touch of frost without being harmed, so choose a few to add winter interest to your displays.

There are jobs to tempt us outside through winter, too, including clearing away the remains of last summer’s bedding and crops, sweeping-up the final fallen leaves of autumn, and improving soil by forking in generous quantities of compost. Don’t forget the birds either, regularly cleaning and topping-up feeders and birdbaths.

Gardening during winter brings us outside into the daylight to exercise, which is vital for our health and wellbeing. This can help reduce symptoms from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as ‘winter depression’ or the winter blues that often begins when days get shorter.

Lack of sunlight may affect the brain, leading to lower levels of serotonin linked to a feeling of depression, and higher levels of melatonin that make us feel sleepy. Ever shortening days also disrupt our body clock, too. Getting out into the garden on sunny days recharges your spirits and raises your mood.

It’s common to eat more over winter, so focus on a healthy diet and plan to grow plenty of home-grown fruit and vegetables when possible. Gluts of fruit can always be frozen or preserved to use out of season. Growing your own provides regular exercise to keep you active, and burn off a few calories too!

Colder weather often keeps us indoors, making us less sociable, so try joining a local gardening groups and getting out to enjoy inspiring talks, meet other gardeners, and exchange ideas for the new gardening season ahead.


Looking for inspiration?

Many gardens around the country have borders and areas designed with winter colour in mind. Here are some of the best to visit this month:

* Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire

* Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge

* RHS Garden Harlow Carr’s Winter Walk

* Cambridge Botanic Gardens

* Dyrham House and Park, near Bath

* Bressingham Gardens, Norfolk

* Dunham Massey’s Winter Garden, Cheshire

* Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland

* Cambo Gardens, Fife, Scotland

* Fountains Abbey / Studley Water Gardens, near Ripon in North Yorkshire

* Glasgow Botanic Gardens, West End of Glasgow, Scotland

* Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland

* Arduaine Gardens, Oban, Scotland

* Antrim Castle Gardens, Northern Ireland