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January Newsletter 2016

Happy New Year. We hope you’ve enjoyed a great Christmas and you’re now energised and keen to get into the garden to start up the new gardening year.

The great thing about the winter is that you see the bare bones of the garden- the structure of the trees and hedges that form the framework around which all the flowers bloom in spring and summer.

Due to the unseasonably warm weather, it’s good to get the garden prepared for planting in spring. It’s not just a time of tidying though. This month you can start sowing indoors to get blooms earlier on in the spring and summer.

Yes, it’s a busy time even now and great to get in the garden for some fresh air and post-Christmas exercise.


Patrick Wiltshire


Top Tips for January…

Ventilate greenhouses on sunny days 

Make sure that a good air flow is getting to your greenhouse plants. As your seeds are germinating and growing into robust little seedlings it’s important that they get a good deal of air and light.

It’s particularly important while we are going through this warm spell; plants in greenhouses can be stifled by heat and humidity, and bring on seedling-affecting diseases like ‘damping off’. Open the greenhouse door by day and, if possible, vents but close by night.

Despite the warm weather, be prepared for temperatures to suddenly plummet and make sure you’re well stocked for horticultural fleece or supplementary heating.   


Plant trees if ground is not frozen 

On a clear day it’s great to get in the garden to plant up garden trees. Garden trees are good to set up before planting bedding and perennials in spring. They form the framework on which to set off all your planting you’ll do later on in the year.

Plant your bare-root trees on any day in winter when the ground is not frozen. Soak the roots in a bucket of water while digging and preparing the planting hole. Dig a hole deep enough to cover the roots, and wide enough that the roots fit in without being squashed together. This means the hole need not be deep, but it does need to be wide.

Sprinkle rootgrow mycrorrhizal fungi to the bottom of the planting hole. This fungi attaches itself naturally to the roots as the trees grows, and in effect causes a secondary root system, so the trees can absorb more nutrients and water for stronger growth.  


Sow bedding in propagators or heated greenhouses 

In mid-January you can start creating your flower garden by sowing seeds indoors under cover. Bedding such as Begonia, Salvia and Pelargonium can all be sown now in seeds trays or modules. Use module trays for big seed, and seed trays for small seed.

When possible use new seed containers (trays and modules) for each new season. This reduces the likelihood of fungal diseases being carried across on containers from year to year.

Sowing small seeds in seed trays (lobelia, foxgloves)

1)      Fill a seed tray / half seed tray with seed compost – which is light and contains a small but balance level of nutrients in the soil. Overfill and strike excess soil off with a board so that the seed tray is filled to the top with un-compressed soil.

2)      Press the soil down evenly with a seedboard so there is a 1cm lip at the top.

3)      Submerge the seed tray into a waterbath beneath so that the soil slowly absorbs the moisture from the bottom without disturbing the soil on top.

4)      Sprinkle seed evenly on the soil level using the furrows in your palm and tapping the seed off with the other hand.

5)      Cover the seeds with a small layer of vermiculite or perlite.

6)      Water above with a fine rose and add fungicide to the first watering to guard against damping off.

7)      Label and date the seeds and place in a cool light place


Sowing larger seeds in pots (sunflowers, sweet peas)

1)      Fill a 6-9cm pot with seed compost – which is light and contains a small but balance level of nutrients in the soil. Overfill and strike excess soil off with a board so that the seed tray is filled to the top with un-compressed soil.

2)      Submerge the seed tray into a waterbath beneath so that the soil slowly absorbs the moisture from the bottom without disturbing the soil on top.

3)      Press the seed/s into the soil to a depth of about 2cm using a dibber or pencil.

4)      Water above with a fine rose and add fungicide to the first watering to guard against damping off.

5)      Cover the seeds with more of the seed-compost.

6)      Label and date the seeds and place in a cool light place


Continue sowing sweet peas and checking for mouse damage 

Sweet peas can be sown and grown right through winter. Use the method described above for large seeds. We offer a Sweet pea Grower’s Kit with all the equipment you are likely to need to get a collection of gorgeous climbing flowers for your garden.

Be warned- mice find sweet pea seeds an absolute delicacy and will quickly plunder your stock of sown seeds if not well protected. Keep modules of sown seeds protected and check constantly for signs of mice; droppings, gnawed boxes etc. 



Remove hellebore leaves 

In warm winters hellebores might start to bloom as early as January. Hellebores flowers come in different shades of green, yellow pink and purple and often have intricate markings. The petals looks glorious in the mid-winter sun.

If you want to show off the blooms to their full snip off the surrounding hellebore leaves to leave ‘naked’ flower stems growing from the soil.



Winter protection  

Despite the warm spells we’ve had at the start of winter temperatures can get low at any time depending on cold fronts and weather coming in from colder conditions abroad.

It always pays to have horticultural fleece in store and heaters for growing plants in the greenhouse. Make sure your heaters work, and that you are well stocked with heater fluid. It’s also good to invest in a thermometer so that you can keep track of temperatures in greenhouses while seeds are germinating or house-plants are overwintering.



Check containers for puddles beneath 

If it’s been particularly wet in your region and you have container displays, make sure that containers are not sitting in puddles. This can quickly saturate and sour the soil within and kill off roots which will consequently harm your flowers.

Try to get containers directly off the ground with purpose-made container feet or place on a raised surface. This will ensure that the container can drain freely and keep a good soil environment for healthy roots.


Unwins visits… Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland 

The famed venue of BBC Gardeners’ World, we wanted to see some gardens that come into their own during the short days of winter. Here are just some of the highlights of the lovely Barnsdale Gardens In Rutland which proves that gardens can be truly atmospheric at any time of the year, even January.

Bridge, Japanese Garden 

A lovely addition by a pool or pond, a wooden bridge is timeless. You can even plant clematis nearby and have the twining stems creep over the sides.



Bright dogwoods, Winter Border 

The fiery stems of dogwoods add impact to the winter garden and provide a see-through ‘curtain’ to other parts of the garden.



Effective touches, Courtyard Garden 

The architectural leaves of ferns look gorgeous by small pools in winter – quiet, moody and reflective.




Handsome Hellebores, The Tea Garden 

Get a bit of flower-power come through with hellebores. Their nodding flowers are charming and look great when planted in hanging baskets.



Enchanting ivy, A Cottage Garden 

Ivy is fantastic – great for wildlife by providing pollen when in flower, lots of cover for nesting birds and in winter, the evergreen leaves look gorgeous.





Plant of the month – Mahonia media ‘Charity’ 

Looking for an architectural shrub with gloriously-scented flowers during the winter months? Choose Mahonia x media ‘Charity’. What’s more, it has many attributes, not just its beautifully-scented yellow flowers.

  •          Fully hardy – suitable in full sun or shade
  •          Good structural evergreen shrub/tree
  •          Attractive berries after flowering

TOP TIP – Prune in spring or after flowering- it’s a robust plant and can be cut down to any height you desire. Ensure you have thick gloves and a sharp pruning knife or saw- this shrub produces dense hard wood so a good sharp tool is necessary for cutting.

FASCINATING FACT – The wood and sap is bright yellow when you cut into it. This is not a sign of disease just a typical trait of plants in the barberry family.

PESTS AND DISEASES – Mahonias are great in that they don’t suffer much from pests. The diseases rust and powdery mildew can affect mahonias however but you can prevent your plants from succumbing with a little care. Keep plants well-ventilated by pruning to create an airy structure and feed the plant periodically with bulky feritiliser for optimum plant health.



Recently we featured a TOP TIP on our Unwins Facebook page on planting bare-root hedging now for your garden. Hedges are attractive in themselves and they offset garden flowers beautifully.

This Pyracantha hedge (pictured) is fantastic – evergreen and easy to train it’s fully hardy. It reveals masses of white flowers in spring and then lots of berries in autumn that attract many birds like blackbirds and song thrushes. 

We’d love to hear about hedging you have in your own garden and the benefits they give. If you have an image you’d like to send in we’d love to see it too. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter.




DON’T MISS OUT - The Unwins January 2016 catalogue will be landing on your doorsteps on 7 and 8 January.

It’s packed with gorgeous varieties of flowers, summer bulbs and shrubs for your summer garden and beyond. Here’s just some of our exciting highlights.

New and currently exclusive to Unwins, is Rudbeckia Russet Glow. An easy-grow, low-maintenance perennial perfect for our customers wanting late-summer colour in the garden year after year.

RHS award-winning Petunia Tumbelina Priscilla - variety enjoying its 20th anniversary. A first in double-trailing petunias and still enjoying world-wide success you can plant in baskets for a brilliant show all summer long of fragrant weather-tolerant blooms.

We’re also bringing out a NEW probiotic plant booster – Envii Foundation: an exciting NEW biological gardening product that fortifies your garden plants against the elements as well as soil- borne pests and diseases giving your prized plants the best defence to grow and flower in abundance.

If you can’t wait until then see our online catalogue and start making your orders now.  



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