Moe's Winter Newsletter

“A world without trees would be like a world without chocolate – and that’s not a world I want to live in.” Jon Stokes

As we come to the end of 2020, we will all reflect on the fact that life has been particularly difficult this year! As gardeners we have been fortunate to have had places of sanctuary where we have found some peace and calm in an uncertain world. The one thing that has kept me and so many of my friends sane has been the opportunity to work in our green spaces. We are all aware of how gardening can relieve stress and anxiety and feed body and soul. Gardening and the appreciation of the natural world has been very much ‘on the agenda’ this year. The BBC has reported that the lockdown gardening boom has become a phenomenon, the RHS has dealt with a fivefold rise in queries about gardening on their website and the seed companies have been struggling to keep up with demand as supplies in the garden centres began to run out in May. As keen gardeners ‘in the know’ we welcome this change in awareness and hope that it continues when COVID 19 is no longer a threat to us. We may well see new members at our club in 2021 in light of this. They will be able to listen to the full programme of speakers imparting their knowledge about diverse topics including ferns, roses and woodland plants along with our regulars!

Matteuccia Struthropteris and Erythronium 'Pagoda'


Before that, we can still enjoy our gardens because there are tasks to complete. Bare rooted roses and fruit bushes can be planted now and blackcurrants and autumn fruiting raspberries can also pruned. A third of the old growth on the blackcurrants must go and the raspberries cut down to 30cms. A good feed with farmyard manure afterwards will ensure good crops next year. Long whippy growth on climbing roses can be taken off the plants to stop them suffering from wind damage. Apple and Pear trees can be pruned now. Healthy, productive trees will only need their lateral branches taken back by half. Congested, unproductive trees require thinning out, with crossing branches and weak and diseased wood removing. Having cleared away the last of the leaves the structure of the trees in our gardens will become more noticeable at this time of the year each with their own character, linear patterns and bark texture.

Trees are incredibly important for their role in absorbing our carbon output. 400 tonnes of carbon is absorbed by trees in every hectare of forest. Trees prevent flooding, reduce temperature, clean the air and improve soil nutrients.  There is no doubt we should all be living with more trees around us -there is room in any garden for a tree. Whether you have a large palatial plot or a mini courtyard there is a tree to suit your space. If you plant one you will be secure in the knowledge that it will be cleaning the air you breathe as well as giving you pleasure. A British native tree would be a good choice. Silver Birch (Betula pendula), Hazel (Corylus avellana) Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) will all suit a small garden (and varieties of any of them won’t look out of place either). A much larger space can accommodate a Cherry (Prunus) or Beech (Fagus) Globalisation and climate change has seen the rapid spread of new diseases so if you want to add a new tree to your garden please think about which one it will be and where it has come from. Jon Stokes, chairman of trees, science and research at the Tree Council will tell you “When you buy trees it is vital that you check the nursery you use has grown them in the U.K. and that they have never been abroad. Ideally trees grown from seed you have collected locally are best. They can be grown in pots and planted out when they are old enough”. It seems to me that if you have children or grandchildren this is a wonderful way in which to engage them with nature.

Ilex aquifolium                                                                Creatus Monogyyna

In the wider environment many organisations such as the Woodland Trust and the Tree Council are working hard to manage our countryside and give opportunities for trees to grow, but so many other societies such as the National Trust and the RHS are in the business of protecting and preserving our environment too. You can enjoy trees in woods and gardens anytime of the year, winter included, many of which are on our doorstep. Did you know there are 27 woods in Lancashire alone?  Hyning Scout Wood in Yealand Conyers, Warton and Masons Wood in Preston, are well worth a visit. Both have parking nearby. The new RHS Bridgewater Garden at Worsley will be opening next May and I’m sure will be looking forward to seeing the fantastic results of the hard work and dedication hundreds of gardeners and volunteers have put in over the last two years to create, what will be  a world class garden. (The walled garden there is the largest in Europe)

As the nights draw in and the weather gets cold and wet, there is no denying that, life will be even harder for us and when our chores are done we will be focussing on Christmas when we can hopefully be together with our families to celebrate what is good in our lives. Present buying will occupy our thoughts. I don’t really want my family to ask me what I want for Christmas. I always like to be surprised! Asking is well intended no doubt and perhaps those that do, want to be sure they can give something the recipient will enjoy. Of course, I’m easily pleased - receiving anything that relates to gardening is going to be a sure winner with me, but what about you? What will you buy your gardening friends and family? Some of them will be good gardeners and some may have become keen to learn more about it because of lockdown situations. I’m sure all will have come to appreciate the natural world a lot more and I’d like to think we can make a difference and change a few minds about the way in which we care for our planet now with the help of the presents we give this Christmas……

Practical gifts such as a trowel, garden fork or gloves to be used when the weather warms up for those new to gardening will, I’m sure, be appreciated but immediate gratification may be the order of the day. There is no doubt in my mind that some family members will be heartily sick of watching television but will still want their spirits lifting, so why not buy them a good humorous BOOK – gardening- based of course!  Children are well catered for in this respect but for older relatives The Day Job; Adventures of a Jobbing Gardener by the comedian Mark Wallington, or Chris Madden’s A Funny Year in the garden will bring many smiles! For those who prefer books about practical activities, pest control (with humour) can be found in 50 ways to kill a slug (Sarah Ford), 101 things to do in a Shed (Rob Beattie) or Outwitting Squirrels (Anne Wareham). The latter isn’t just about outwitting squirrels but all garden pests. Forest Therapy – Seasonal ways to embrace nature for a happier you by Sarah Ivens enlightens the reader about ways in which we can engage with nature. All will entertain! There are many with a similar message! Many books published by the National Trust or the RHS are wonderful reminders of the beauty in the natural world they have been concerned with reclaiming, preserving and protecting over decades. Purchasing one for a friend or relative will give vital income that will go towards continuing the work they do on our behalf. Practical guides for the novice gardener are readily available, the best by well- known personalities we see regularly on television. Those that were given to me for Christmas many years ago are in continual use!  Still available are RHS Complete Gardener’s Manual, RHS Good Plant Guide and The Readers Digest, The Gardening Year. A yearly membership subscription to any charity, society or magazine concerned with gardening or nature will encourage the recipient of a new found appreciation of the natural world to develop it further and play a part in its’ continued preservation. Many of these societies are in dire need of the revenue in order to continue the good work that they do. Looking forward to a COVID free time (next year) there are many gardening shows that the RHS advertise. Why not buy a loved one a ticket in advance? Six month’s supply of flowers delivered (in any month you choose), to an elderly, sick or housebound relative or friend will bring them closer to the beauty of the natural world long after Christmas is over – a continued reminder of a loving thought.

I am sure that I do not just speak for myself when I say that the beautiful world around us has brought solace and calm when things seemed depressing and useless.  It has given us the most important means of forgetting the terrible situation in which we have found ourselves and has changed people’s outlook on life. In 2021 I hope we will all give back, continue to protect our little piece of the planet and help in any way we can to keep reminding others that what was important in 2020 in still so in 2021. Enjoy Christmas.

Very best wishes to everyone. Hoping to see you in the New Year!


Malus "Sun Rival" - A lovely crab apple for a very small garden