Forage in the garden for Christmas decorations. Fresh foliage is so much nicer than shop-bought. It brings the smell of plants into the fuggy heated home. Especially those with fragrant foliage like rosemary or bay or sage or even lavender. This will kill two birds with one stone as you can prune the shrubs into shape at the same time.

Wreath of variegated holly and ribbons, what could be simpler?

Any long bendy stems can be use to make a wreath for Christmas. Bend a wire coat hanger into a rough circle and weave dogwood, willow or hazels stems round the circle, using thin wire at first and then threading stems into other stems. Build up the wreath with holly and ivy, rosemary and bay, pine cones and dried flower heads, ribbon, tinsel, baubles, whatever takes your fancy. If it looks a bit over the top – who cares? It’s the season for excess after all.

Jasminum nudiflorum

There is colour to be found in the garden when the leaves have gone. A reliable and bright winter flower that will grow almost anywhere is Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine). For extra zing plant it along a fence with Cotoneaster horizontalis, another bomb-proof plant which retains its bright red berries for a good long while, before the blackbirds gobble them.

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Whenever the weather allows, get outside with the secateurs:
Prune trees and shrubs now when fully dormant, with the exception of any of the prunus (cherry) family which should be pruned when in full growth. Clear crossing branches or any broken and weak branches. Don’t clip round the leading shoots to create a round shape. This is will result in a burst of growth from the cut ends next year. So instead, just take out a few of the branches to open up the centre of the plant to the air and light and generally thin the plant.
Cut deciduous hedges now in December, as birds will start nesting in late Jan/early Feb.
Feed the birds to keep them in the garden, they are so attractive to watch and will be working on your behalf next caterpillar season.
When the cold weather comes, avoid walking on a frozen lawn, it will kill the grass.
Shake snow off shrubs to lessen the weight and avoid broken branches.
A tidy up of shed and greenhouse can be therapeutic – all part of looking forward, past the winter solstice to the coming Spring and the next growing season. Happy Christmas and a flourishing New Year to you.

The spooky yew ‘megaliths’ seen through a veil of rosehips at Packwood House, Warwickshire