Some clients get very concerned if we inform them that we are planning to undertake some of the planting in their gardens during the winter months. And clients choosing to do their own planting often ask us if it is safe to plant anything at this time of year.
As with a lot of things, the answer is… it depends.
Many plants (particularly some of the most common trees and shrubs, and winter flowering perennials) are remarkably hardy, and can be planted at any time during the winter, provided that the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.
Indeed, winter can be the best time of year to plant some plants (e.g. roses, Beech and Hornbeam hedging) as they are dormant, and can be purchased bare root or root balled at considerably lower prices than their container grown counterparts.
It is also worth bearing in mind that some of the shrubs bought and planted in spring will have spent the previous winter outside in a nursery, coping with whatever weather nature brings along. And whilst many plants (both newly planted and well established) will succumb if we have a very long spell of cold frosty weather, snow can actually protect new plants as it acts as a good insulation blanket!
Having said all this, here at ALDA we only do a very small amount of planting during the very cold months of January and February. This is partly due to the difficulty in forecasting the weather – it is hard to plan with certainty when and how long it is going to be too cold to plant. There are also issues about plant availability at this time of year. In general, nurseries have less stock during winter, and new stocks of some plants, for example, late summer flowering perennials (e.g. Asters) and slightly tender shrubs (e.g. Fuchsias) tend not to come on stream until late Spring.
Most importantly, there are some plants which we never plant during winter. If you think about it, these plants are the obvious ones:
- Anything which comes from a hot climate and is slightly tender won’t really thank you for taking it straight out of a cosy warm polytunnel and planting it in a cold and frosty garden!
- Plants that come from warm and dry (and often free draining) environments (e.g. Mediterranean plants – think of plants with grey leaves) absolutely hate going straight out into the cold and wet soils that are so typical of our winters these days.
So, we would advise against planting things like Hebe, Phormiums, Lavender, and Santolina until the weather, and more specifically the ground, starts to warm up (and dry up) in spring. These types of plant benefit from having a season to establish before being subjected to the vagaries of a British Winter.
Hope this helps!