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Very cold lately with frosty mornings and chill throughout the day, so, if you’re a seasonal bird feeder, now is time to start filling feeders with nuts, seed and fat balls. Bird baths need to be checked each morning to make sure ice doesn't stop birds from drinking and washing.

Amongst December flowering plants are cyclamen, winter pansies and heathers and in January hellebore, mahonia and, of course, snowdrops start to fill out. Keep these plants clear of fallen leaves, though they can be left on the ground around the base to decompose and feed the soil. Witchazel, with its pretty pale yellow flowers and scent, also makes an appearance and is particularly good for flower arranging.

The stickiness of the soil makes it a bit more difficult to potter around in the borders, but cutting back dying perennials should be done as well as tidying up shrubs and low growing trees. Some climbers also need cutting back to the base to enable strong root growth for the following year.  Borders as a whole can look very unappealing if left to themselves.

Tender climbers such as passion flower and jasmine don't care for the cold around their roots, so pack some straw around the base and wrap with fleece or bubblewrap held with garden twine. This may not look too pretty, but worth doing to protect the plant and ensure it survives ready for next spring. Containers and their contents also need to be protected from likely frost. Hessian is not only a good insulator, but looks quite attractive too. It can also be dyed to create a colourful display. Other perennials also benefit from straw being packed around the base.

Move containers with permanent tender plants into a warmer place such as a greenhouse or outbuilding and cover with fleece or wrap the pot with bubblewrap or hessian. Not so tender plants will also benefit from being moved to a sheltered spot and wrapping to protect their roots from the cold. I have a trolley specifically for the purpose of moving large pots that has proved invaluable. A worthwhile investment for pot lovers!

Plant fragrant winter shrubs such as chimonanthus, sarcococca and daphne. Their scent during February is exquisite and they are all easy to maintain with minimal pruning and feeding. Having said that, I use a liquid seaweed fertilizer that is brilliant. It was initially expensive, but worth its weight in gold and will probably last me out!

Hard prune overgrown shrubs and hedges whilst they are dormant and continue to check damaged branches and stems on trees. Shrubs can also be moved to a different space and trees may be a tad more difficult, but can be done making sure that a good large root ball is dug up and replanted immediately into its new hole, packing with a good mixture of compost and soil, then mulching around the base.

Lift and divide clumps of rhubarb replanting in enriched soil. By the way, did you know that rhubarb is actually a vegetable? I didn’t! Take care never to eat or use the leaves as they extremely toxic. By ‘forcing’ rhubarb – placing a forcing pot over the plant – rhubarb can be harvested as early as March.

December is a good month for hardwood cuttings. Suitable for this are usually from decidous trees and shrubs, but some evergreens, like holly, cotoneaster, privet, will all take well with hardwood cuttings. For these, use only strong shoots, around 10"-12" long, that have grown in the current year and remove the soft tip making a slanted cut. Snip the base of the shoot straight across just below a developing bud and dip into rooting hormone. Insert the cuttings either directly into the ground or into pots of compost and grit and push at least two-thirds into the soil. Leave as they are until next autumn when, hopefully, roots will have formed along the stem below the soil.

Most of the vegetables have been harvested by now, so make sure, if you are storing them, that they are safe from marauding wildlife - whilst I do keep the bird feeders filled and try to have plants that are attractive to wildlife and insects, there is a limit to what we'll let them have!

Normally, at this time of year, I would also suggest that empty vegetable beds are dug over, but I am now firmly enmeshed in the no-dig scenario - more about that next year!

Sitting outside has been exceptionally chilly, so most evenings I decamp to the summerhouse where a small oil fired radiator helps to warm the air; the puss-kits soon join me and Martha, who is more accepting both Hazzah and Tom as being part of our family. Sipping the warm red is fast becoming less stressful...

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