Patios / Winter
Getting the patio ready for Christmas
By The Secret Gardener
The patio is usually in a key part of the garden: either directly outside the lounge or kitchen window, or in a well-lit and exposed part of the garden.
Turning the patio into the ultimate festive scene couldn't be easier. A few tweaks and inexpensive additions can give the patio a whole new dimension over the Christmas period. For starters, think about adding some lights. Outdoor Christmas lights can be used to highlight features in the garden and create a great view from inside the house.
Fairy lights and net lights look great wrapped around features and shrubs, while novelty character lights can create a Christmas scene. They work a treat. You have two choices when it comes to power. Mains supply lights go directly into an outdoor socket, but you will need to put in a safety RCD adaptor to make the circuit safe. Please also make sure to use proper armoured cables if you are running extensions around the garden. You don’t want to push a spade through a live cable!
Adding a touch of lighting will brighten up the patio and make it feel Christmassy for you and the kids too. In addition to that, there are a few plants that look stunning in winter. Adding these around the patio and in containers will lift the garden and your spirits.
Try brightly coloured outdoor cyclamen – they come in pinks, reds and snow white and add a punch of colour to the garden through winter. You can also grow winter-flowering pansies that will invigorate tubs and containers. And try solanum plants with large orange berries – birds love them.
But one of my favourite ways to make the garden feel Christmassy is to grow Christmas plants! Why not plant a holly bush in your garden? It has glossy evergreen leaves and shape all year round, and wonderful red berries in time for Christmas. You can also buy variegated varieties with patterned leaves, and some with silvery or gold leaves, known as Silver Queen and Golden King.
If your neighbours don’t grow holly, you may need to check with your garden centre for the best variety. This is because you need a male and female variety for the pollination to make berries. But holly keeps growing and comes back even better every year. You can pick a few sprigs to bring indoors and decorate wreaths too.
I also love conifers in winter. Small varieties can be planted in containers, or they can go directly into borders. You can also decorate them with lights to make a living Christmas tree! Look for Picea albertiana, which is a pine but slow-growing. Or try chamaecyparis ellwoodii, which is a cypress variety. Ellwood’s Gold is a stunning tree that has golden leaves.
Adding your own Christmas tree to the patio is also a good idea, and you can buy them in pots. There are two main types: container-grown, which means they have been grown for most of their lives in pots; and containerised, which means that the trees have been grown in the ground, dug up and replanted in pots. I would recommend container-grown plants as they are more likely to survive for longer. They are more expensive and likely to be smaller in size, but the containerised versions can be temperamental. Many families are now putting up a second Christmas tree on the patio and decorating it as they do with the indoor one.
Don’t forget at this time of year to put out some food for the robins. You can buy special robin food from most garden retailers and pet stores. It will help the little red robins to survive the cold weather. And don’t forget to add a dish of fresh water for them to drink. Finally, make sure to sprinkle some salt over the patio and walkways to prevent any slipping on the ice.
Enjoy the Christmas holidays!
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