Tame overgrown hedges before growth recommences. Snowberries clothe the most difficult spots. Dried flowers make charming additions to winter indoor decoration.
Rural gardeners may have to fend hares off tree bark in hard weather. Peace lilies are deservedly popular for their graceful flowers and leaves.
1 — Overgrown hedges
Tame overgrown deciduous hedges of beech, hawthorn, hazel and hornbeam for example, by winter pruning. First, trim the top and then one side. Keep the cut side slightly wider at the base than the top. Not only does this look best, but also promotes better shoots near the base where hedges can go thin. Deal with the remaining side in winter once the trimmed areas are growing again, which may take a year or two.
2 — Snowberry
Hardy North American deciduous shrubs Symphoricarpus – or snowberries – freely spread and sucker. Snowberries are ideal for tricky places including slopes, shade and poor soils, whether in full sun or moderate shade. Symphoricarpus albus growing up to 2m, bears large white berries from late summer until deep into winter. Symphoricarpos chenaultii Hancock grows to 50cm and bears white fruits, speckled with red, and makes excellent groundcover. Symphoricarpos doorenbosii White Hedge makes hedges to 1.5m and also bears white berries.
3 — Dried flowers
For dried flowers, try all Achillea that form colourful flat heads in many shades, strawlike daisy flowers of Acroclinium. Helichrysum and Xeranthemum in reds, whites and pinks, ball-flowered Gomphrena in pinks, purples and white, Limonium or statice in blues, reds, pinks and purples. Raising plants in modules in a greenhouse to plant out into sunny, weed-free moderately fertile ground in June gives the best results. Pick bunches of open flowers and hang to dry in a dark airy place.
4 — Hares
Brown hares look like long-legged and eared loping versions of rabbits but are much less common in gardens preferring fields and woodland edges. They are mainly nocturnal and, in rural gardens, encountered by accident when their “forms” or shelters are inadvertently stumbled upon. Hares browse on leaves, buds and, unfortunately, tree bark. Protecting tree trunks when hares are present is sometimes necessary. Unlike rabbits, hares live solitary lives only congregating to breed in March.
5 — Peace lily
With lovely, long glossy leaves and showy spikes of flowers produced over several months, peace lilies are a bestselling tender houseplant. Bright filtered rather than direct light suits them – although they tolerate darker conditions at the expense of some flowers. Grow them in any well-drained potting compost, watering to avoid waterlogging and going easy on houseplant feed, keeping them at 20-28°C and away from draughts and radiators. Wiping dust off leaves keeps them healthy and attractive.