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Joe Swift's Winter Gardening Tips

Do you look out into your garden at this time of year and despair? Where’s all the colour gone? All the vibrancy and aroma that makes your garden feel alive? It doesn’t need to be this way though; Gardener’s World’s Joe Swift tells us a garden can be stunning all year round. Here Joe gives us seven tips to bring your winter garden to life.

Get Good Soil

This is a great time of year to mulch the earth. Putting down a nice thick layer of mulch is like putting a winter duvet over the border. Do it now and the worms will work that mulch down into the soil and condition it. That in turn will feed the plants for the year to come, it will also make it much more moisture retentive and fertile for the following year.

Move Plants

This is the time to move plants that you feel aren’t where you want them. If it’s not too big you can dig it up and place it where you think it will work better for the aesthetic of your garden.


Now’s the time to be laying the groundwork for how you want the garden to look in the spring and summer. So maybe you want to lay a path or re-lay the lawn, shape the lawn, put in a shed - these are all things that often fall by the wayside during the hectic summer months. In winter, there’s time to do it all.

Think About The Look

This time of year is all about the winter garden. So ask yourself how you can improve it. What plants will bring it to life? Think of plants that look great all year round. You can find a host of plants that look great in the summer and then in the winter they have beautiful stems and gorgeous bark. It can add a really interesting colour to your garden at this time of year. Look at plants in greater detail. For example, some roses have the most incredible thorns that look stunning in the winter.


Don’t cut things back too early. By leaving them a bit rough, letting the leaves stay on the ground can allow loads of grubs and insects to find respite from the cold. This allows a host of birds to come and feed off them, really bringing your winter garden to life. You’re keeping that ecosystem sustainable. The forecast for this winter is potentially very cold so feed the birds throughout the whole winter, not just once. Fatty foods are good. Think about plants that can feed the birds - Ivy, for example, will often have berries that last long into the winter and they’re full of calories; apparently ivy berries contain as much calories as a Mars bar. There’s an amazing amount of protein and fat in there for wildlife.

Evergreen Structure

There is no set rule in terms of a percentage of evergreen plants. It used to be ‘40% evergreens will give you good winter structure.’ There are no such rules in garden design structure. Most gardens will want some evergreen plants. But make sure they’re not all on one side of the garden, or at the back, or the front. You have to balance them out; have a few on either side so the winter garden looks balanced when other plants have died down. It’s a common mistake to put all the evergreens in one place and it makes the garden look lopsided. They’re good structural plants, easy to grown and tough as old boots.

Winter Scent

Think about two or three plants for your garden that produce a winter scent. There are loads that smell amazing that on a crisp day and some of them will cut through 30 or 40 feet even if they’re towards the back of the garden. They’re great in the front garden as well because you’re going to walk past them on a daily basis. Things like daphnes, sarcococcas and lots of winter flowering viburnums produce such a sweet smell you’ll be glad you put them in.


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