January is a time to wait for spring, with bulbs just peeping through. Time to look and appreciate the shapes and colours of evergreens in the garden.
There are plants with dramatic shapes such as evergreen Phormiums or New Zealand Flax, with their long sword shaped leaves. They make a bold statement in any garden and come in a range of sizes and colours. Some have white and green leaves, others red, orange, plum and plain green. They need some shelter from wind and a well drained soil with moisture. The smaller ones can be grown in pots, so Bronze Baby with reddish purple tinged leaves will grow to about 1m tall and wide. Some such as Phormium tenax Pupureum will get to 2m tall and almost as wide. Pair them with low growing mounded plants around the base.
Another plant that will stand out in winter is the pine Picea pungens Hoopsii with pale blue/grey needles on a slow growing tree which will make up to 4m in time. It needs to be in an exposed position with sunlight all around to make the perfect Christmas tree shape and have moist but well drained soil. To appreciate the tree, plant around it with low growing shrubs or perennials that will contrast with the tree. Low growing sub shrubs such as Euonymus Emerald n Gold or Silver Queen with their variegated foliage or the purple leaved shrub Berberis thunbergii Concorde which forms a low mound shape.
Some winter heathers will be in flower in January as will a few flowers of Witch Hazel or Hamamelis. Some Hamamelis have scented flowers in yellow, red or orange and all look like wriggly pencil lines on the branches! If you want more substantial flowers I always recommend Hellebore orientalis varieties. These robust perennials with leathery glossy green leaves and large flowers come in white, pink and deep plum shades, some with speckled flowers, some are double but all flowers in the depths of winter. Cut most of the leaves off in late autumn so you can see the flowers developing. They like medium or heavy soils with plenty of humus and can flower in light shade under larger shrubs. Not ideal in full sun but I have one that copes with being baked in summer!
Not much to do in the garden except keep off lawns when it’s frosted or you will have brown patches, footprint shaped where you damage the grass!
Prune deciduous shrubs and climbers when you can see the branches free of leaves. You can get a good shaped shrub when pruned out of leaf. Pick up and diseased leaves from around the base of roses to try and reduce blackspot next season. Prune apples and pears now but not cherries or plums.