This season...

• Buy winter flowering plants such as camellias, euphorbias and hellebores from your local nursery, specialist growers, or by mail order such as Post Office Farm Nursery and Di’s Delights.
• Visit your local nursery and select bare-rooted deciduous fruit trees and roses to plant out.
• Weed bare areas in the vegetable garden, then spread a good layer of manure over the soil surface to rot down and prepare the area for planting again in spring. The soil will benefit greatly from this rest and rejuvenation.
• Mulch perennial beds with well rotted animal manure; this will break down slowly, providing nutrients for the forthcoming spring growth.
• Leave the ground undisturbed until conditions are more favourable if living in an area where the soil is prone to freezing.
• Feed citrus in late July to August with a balanced fertiliser formulated for citrus.
• Tidy up summer-flowering shrubs, removing spent flowers and any overcrowded or diseased branches. Prune raspberries and cane fruits.
• Do not prune spring-flowering shrubs such as roses now as they will be starting to produce flower buds and you will only be cutting away potential flowers. Roses that prune at other times may be pruned now, and diseased or rubbing canes can be cut away from all rose types.
• Take hardwood cuttings from plants such as roses, hydrangeas and deciduous trees and shrubs, labelling the pots with the variety and date.
• Experiment with changing the colour of your hydrangea flowers. Do this before the flower buds develop around August. It’s the pH of the soil that determines the colour (apart from white, which doesn’t change). Sprinkle lime at the base to create an alkaline soil if you would prefer pink flowers. For an acidic soil that produces blue flowers add aluminum sulfate (or a blueing agent/tonic) purchased from your local nursery.

Plant of the season for shady areas

Winter Rose — Hellebores.
• Not actually a rose, but a useful winter to spring flowering plant that produces blooms useful for float bowls or as cut flowers.
• These shade loving plants are perfect for under deciduous trees, an area that’s often difficult to manage.
• Hellebores enjoy filtered light, and can also be grown in pots if they’re away from the afternoon sun in semi or full shade; they need moist, well-draining soils.
• In addition to unusual flowers, their evergreen foliage is attractive and low growing, reaching 30-45cm.
• Choose from a range of flower colours, from sparkling white or cream through to soft lemon, chartreuse or lime green, as well as pastel pinks, amethyst or ruby hues, or even a more voluptuous deep plum or black. Some varieties have “speckling”' of a contrasting colour.

Plant of the season for sunny spots

• Euphorbias are tough and easy to grow in most climatic zones (frost hardy to -1°C) and in full sun. Their foliage provides year-round interest — ideal for pots on patios and courtyards, or in gravel-style gardens.
• Water requirements are generally low, but keep the soil moist during hot spells so plants don’t dry out completely; plant in well draining soil.
• Encourage bushier growth by removing spent flower stems. Wear gloves when pruning as euphorbias exude a milky sap that can be irritating to skin and eyes.
• Apply slow release fertiliser in summer.
• Euphorbia “Rudolf” grows 50cm tall with a 50cm spread, with a colourful winter display of red tipped leaves followed by sprays of tiny red flowers shrouded in limey green bracts.
• Euphorbia “Silver Swan” produces spikes of creamy coloured flowers produced from late winter through spring; part shade or full sun.
• Euphorbia “Craigieburn” reaches 60cm tall with an 80cm spread. Its foliage is an attractive deep plum colour accented by red tips of new growth.