Still time for tulips

The tulip, with its range of colours, shapes and sizes, can be used to greater effect and in more places in the garden than can the daffodil. We plant Queen of Night tulips in the wild-flower meadow, where they look impressive standing boldly above the cowslips. Plant them in large groups for the best effect. Each November, we top up last year’s bulbs with new ones, as many will not survive from year to year. Late-flowering tulips planted in borders are often in the way of summer’s flowers, but you can lift them straight after flowering to heel-in in another part of the garden. After the foliage has died, lift and grade all the bulbs; save the largest to replant next November.

Train flowering quinces

Chaenomeles japonica is an early-flowering shrub, often known as flowering quince or Japonica, and is particularly welcome when the flowers come out in March. It’s best trained against a wall and doesn’t object to facing north; you’ll get the blossoms earlier, too, against a wall rather than in the open.  If you’re starting with a newly planted bush, use the fresh growth to create the frame-work, but if the plant is trained against a wall, fan-training is the best option, because it means that the flowers won’t be hidden behind the new growth. Train Chaenomeles just as you would the fruiting spurs of apples and pears; trim back the new growths to within one inch of the framework branches, but don’t delay—flower buds form early on the previous year’s wood, so pruning must be finished before the end of November.

Sell holly foliage

If you have holly to spare, try selling the foliage to pay for next year’s plants and seeds. Both green and variegated branches are always in demand, and those with berries fetch higher prices. We will be taking our two overgrown ‘hedgehog’ hollies right down to the stumps, and it seems a shame to shred the trimmings, so we’ve found a Christmas-wreath maker to take everything from the first tree; much of the second will go to a propagation nursery. If you don’t want to cut and sell the prickly holly yourself, ask around and find someone who will come in and do it for you, take away the foliage and even pay you for it.

Protect winter greens

It’s now even more important to continue protecting your mature plants until the spring. As it gets colder and food is more sparse, pigeons will feast on garden greens. Brussels sprouts can do without their tops, but once the tops are gone, the sprouts are vulnerable. Cabbages, such as January King, seem to survive reasonably unpecked, but it would be a great loss if the birds got into your spring-flowering, purple-sprouting broccoli. The bright leaves draw them, and they will then tuck into the centres from which come the purple shoots. Philip Maddison is head gardener at Harrington Hall,
Lincolnshire (www.harringtonhallgardens.co.uk)