Gardening: Wrap up warm for the winter

Vulnerable plants need protection as the really cold weather begins to threaten, but you don't need to spend a fortune to safeguard your outdoor favourites

"AS THE days lengthen, the cold strengthens" is a saying I remember from my childhood. Yet, like most country saws, there is a lot of truth in it. The chances are that you will not experience a prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures until the year has turned, and the days are slowly lengthening. Now, therefore, is the time to think about protecting plants growing outside which are not bone-hardy, until temperatures begin to rise in spring.

Many people believe that this is one garden task too many, and that plants must take their chance. Either they will die, in which case you can replace them with something potentially more interesting, or else they survive and you will have been justified in doing nothing. I would never subscribe to that view. There are plenty of plants upon whose survival I do not wish to gamble. Apart from anything else, I find I can never depend on easily acquiring a plant a second time round (they have a way of vanishing from view just when I go looking for them) and the cost of many plants hardly justifies such profligacy.

Most gardens contain one or two slightly tender plants, especially evergreens, which can suffer from frost or cold wind damage. Carpenteria, ceanothus, abutilon, Cytisus battandieri, myrtle, lemon- scented verbena, and Hebe speciosa are likely suspects. But there are also herbaceous plants which we do not wish to dig up each autumn and preserve inside, such as Salvia and Cosmos atrosanguineus.

The trick to wrapping up a plant in winter is to use something that will allow it to transpire without it becoming sweaty and fungus-prone, and, if possible, also to photosynthesise once dormancy comes to an end in early spring.

Bubble wrap has the advantage of being transparent, so that plants receive some light. It is best to tuck in straw or spun fleece, then attach the bubble insulation only loosely (with waterproof tape) to the wall on each side of the plant.

Bubble pack is also suitable for protecting plants in containers. The growing medium in containers freezes more easily than soil in the border, so the roots of even hardy plants in pots are vulnerable to frost.

Straw, if available, is a good insulator but an adequate alternative, which can be bought in any garden centre, is polypropylene windbreak material. For small plants, the best material is spun fleece. It is easy to get hold of, not expensive, and excellent for protecting the crowns of tender perennials, such as Salvia patens, because it can be cut to size and tied down with pegs, or secured by soil heaped on the edges. It can also be laid in more than one layer in severe weather. This is a material that many gardeners find invaluable for protecting early sowings of vegetables in the spring or late crops in the autumn, but there is no reason why it should not have a prominent place in the winter garden - especially as it is a more sympathetic material aesthetically than black polythene. It is also just the ticket, in early spring, for throwing over a small fruit tree in flower, or a vulnerable hydrangea, if frost is forecast.

It is probably a bit flimsy for very windswept places; it is easily blown away if not well secured. Last spring, after some blustery weather, I found a portion of it hanging from a climbing rose on the house, and traced it to a vegetable garden down the street. Spun fleece rarely lasts more than one season, but is so easy to handle that it takes the grind out of winter protection. And, if the winter really comes hard, that protection could be the difference between life and death. So, in the words of another saying from my childhood: "Wrap up warm or you won't feel the benefit."

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power