December 30 - January 6

Pick up a bargain: Christmas is over for another year and did you get all those gardening goodies you wanted? If not now's a good time to nip down to the garden centre and pick up some bargains.

Pick up a bargain: Christmas is over for another year and did you get all those gardening goodies you wanted? If not now's a good time to nip down to the garden centre and pick up some bargains.

t Keep your Cymbidium orchid in the cool: If you were lucky enough to have been given a Cymbidium orchid for Christmas or if you already have some plants, they will need careful treatment through the winter to keep them healthy. Conditions indoors during winter can be very hot and dry, causing the leaves to dry out at the edges and making the flowers go over quickly. Choosing a position in full light, but out of the sun will benefit them. And they should also be placed where they won't be in a cold draught - another cause of brown leaf edges. Avoid placing cymbidiums near radiators or other sources of heat. A cool room suits them far better. And set a dish of water close to the plants to add a little humidity to the air which may have dried out. Keep the compost moist and then all you need do is sit back and enjoy your plants.

t Moving time: As most things in the garden are looking a bit sad at the moment and most plants are in their winter dormancy, this is a good time to redesign your garden and move plants if you want to. The soil, although cold, is also wet and plants of a reasonable size can be moved. It is important to get as much root as possible on them without shaking too much soil off.

t Feed the birds: With all the cold weather we've had lately don't forget the birds. In the winter with hard frosts and even snow, birds can find it difficult to find food, so it is important to keep putting food out for them. There is a wide range of ready-made mixtures available. The better ones will have been formulated to satisfy the appetites and nutritional needs of a wide range of birds. These can be expensive to supply all winter, but you can use seed from your own garden if you have saved it earlier in the year. Growing your own sunflowers and poppy seed offers a good winter supply. As with plants, water is essential for birds so try to ensure an un-frozen supply.


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t Pot now: If you have been given a hippeastrum or amaryllis bulb as a gift don't leave it languishing in the box over New Year. Pot it up straight away, but bury only the lower half of the bulb. Water sparingly until the flower buds appear. This is also a good time to restart stored hippeastrums for a beautiful show in spring.

t All round protection: Remember to keep some horticultural fleece handy to cover tender plants in the frost and snow. Keep the snow off conifers and hedges to stop branches being pushed down and broken.

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t The hose-pipe design: You can use a hose-pipe on the ground to decide the shape of your new border. Then stand back or go into the house and take a good hard look to make sure you like the shape. Even if you are just widening or reshaping a border it is well worth doing. Remove the turf round the pipe first then you can be sure you have got the right shape and if not it is easy to put the grass back. I like to get the plants I want in the border and then place them where I think they should go. Alternatively, when the bed is prepared, use canes with pictures of the plants on to help you decide. This does take some imagination and you may find a glass of something helps.

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