Preparing for Winter.

After last years bad winter that we had here, when we lost a few plants or had damage done in the garden due to the snow lying for so long, now is the time to begin preparing for winter and whatever the weather will throw at us.


Non hardy plants

The first job for me is always to bring in all the tender plants that won’t survive being frozen. These all spend the winter in the conservatory which is just kept frost free by being heated to +5 degrees at night by a small heater. Usually our first frost arrives around October 15, we will have to wait and see when it will come this year.

Pond area

All the seats in the garden are made of wood so to try and make them last longer we cover them until next spring. This one is in the pond area where we sit and watch the wildlife in the water or that was the idea when we put it there. These days we don’t like to disturb whatever is there, frogs, newts, tadpoles, birds bathing ,bats skimmimg the water for midges, dragonflies emerging from their larval forms when they climb up iris stems or snakes swimming!

Swinging seat

This is the swinging seat which we don’t seem to have used very much this year, we really must make more time for sitting in future. When we do sit down, this is where we usually have morning coffee or a nice long cold drink in the hot weather – what hot weather, it came too late!

Arbour in back

The honeysuckle covered arbour in the back garden is where we sometimes have our lunch in the dappled shade, breathing in the beautiful perfume. Don’t seem to have done much of that either this year because the sun hasn’t been hot enough to make us retreat into the shade unfortunately. Note the pathetic Phormium in the foreground, this used to be 4ft tall by 6ft wide until last winter when I was left with just a few pathetic leaves, protection needed!

Holy Trinity

Also to be covered because they are made of wood and I want them to last as long as possible are my wood carvings. A lot of maintenance was needed this year to get them back to what they should be, so more care is necessary. This is the carving of the Holy Trinity which is near the house. Behind, you can see a Phormium which is a fraction of the size that it used to be, will have to be wrapped up this winter, more about that later.

Baby Moon

The carving of my mother as Baby Moon is at the side of the garden by the farmer’s field, I said goodbye to her as I covered her till springtime!


The carving that represents Genesis chapter one now has its cover for the next few months. It used to sit on the plinth but with the snow staying for so long last winter, it was starting to rot at the base, so I have raised it slightly so that it won’t be in water and I will have to remember to remove any snow that falls, if any does this year. Looks very bare behind it doesn’t it, I have started clearing ready to make my rainbow border. Don’t worry more shrubs will be added at the back, but we were losing about 6ft of planting space, couldn’t have that!

Pond gate

I have had to find something to cover the gate into the pond area because the gate was in rather a mess this spring when I examined it .Up till now, if we could see the carvings from the house, then I didn’t cover them, you learn by your mistakes!

Books with owl

The same happened with my owl and its pile of books, what a state he was in! This is what we look at from the kitchen window, so this year I have brought them round to sit in the front porch and will replace them for the winter with pot of winter pansies underplanted with dwarf narcissus so that we still have something to look at when washing the dishes! He is now tucked up snugly for the winter.

Yellow wave

The plants that suffered most last winter were my Phormiums, what had been super huge plants were reduced to just a few tiny leaves and a lot of mess.

Phormium protection

During this year they have put out lots of new leaves but they are still very small, not wanting to lose these small leaves, I have had to devise some sort of protection with conifer clippings ( next door’s Leylandii  – knew they must be good for something! ) fern fronds, horticultural fleece and netting to hold it all together. Three plants were reduced to this small size, so hopefully by protecting them, it will give them a chance to grow properly again.


This one didn’t suffer quite as much as the others, I think the Pittosporum “Irene Patterson” sheltered it to some degree from the frost and snow, but even so , it is about 1/3 of what it was. Lots more protection needed for this one.


We now look as if we have 4 teepees in the garden, hope all this works!!


At this time of year we are waiting for the first frosts so that we can dig up our dahlias. In previous years I have left them in the ground and they have always flowered well the following year, not this year!! I lost all but one of them, and this one hasn’t even got round to flowering yet. This will be dug up and kept somewhere frost free so that it will survive to flower again next year.

Last on my list is to insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap, which we are frantically doing now, frost is forecast for tonight! Having been caught out last winter, I will only be keeping hardy cuttings out here as everything died last winter that was the least bit tender, not surprising really when we had -15 for a couple of nights. Even though they were all wrapped in 4 layers of horticultural fleece, it obviously wasn’t enough and there were casualties everywhere. I will have to make room in the conservatory for all the cuttings that are tender, just as well that we don’t use it very much in the winter, the plants are taking over! Sorry no time to take a photo!

So there we are, preparations are now done so that we don’t suffer the same as last year, knowing my luck, we will now have a really mild winter,but better to be safe than sorry! How are you preparing for winter, or do you live somewhere really mild where you don’t have to do anything, like we thought for the last 20 yrs!!!

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6 Responses to Preparing for Winter.

  1. hello Pauline, very sensible, I had hoped to get some more wind protection on but the weather has been mostly wind and rain since I returned from the mainland 3 weeks ago earlier this week being very strong gales force winds, your covered plants remind me of the first time I saw covered plants it was in Winniepeg and they had covered their conifers with sacking they looked like a line of old men, lets hope things won’t be as bad as last year, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      I just made it Frances before the first frost last night, but I needn’t have worried, the temperature barely dropped to zero, it was nothing like last winter, however I am now ready to face the worst that nature can throw at me – or I think I am !

  2. A timely reminder Pauline, thank you! You have certainly prepared for the worst and I trust that your Phormiums will survive whatever the weather throws at them thanks to all your care
    I lost so much last year that this year we have decided to keep the plants in the house! (We dont have central heating).

    So after reading your post this morning I spent the day sort out the tender plants, interestingly last year I lost all the dahlias I had dug up – and the ones in the ground were fine, fingers crossed they will survive in the ground this year too.

    • Pauline says:

      Oh, Karen, who knows what to do for the best where dahlias are concerned!
      I hope the phormiums will be ok, we have had them for so long and they had made such huge plants, a real presence in the garden, its such a shame to see them so small now.
      I think your plants will be very happy to be brought into your house – they will have a lovely winter!

  3. catmint says:

    Hi Pauline, this is a fascinating post for me to read and look at because of course we never really shut down the garden here. It struck me as being a useful stage: you review the state of the plants and hard things, make plans, offer protection and nurturing. I hope everything is snug and emerges from the winter into a lovely mild and sunny spring. cheers, catmint

    • Pauline says:

      Lucky you down in Oz Catmint – we used to think we were the same as you down here in Devon, but after last winter – not any more!! I’ve never had to wrap any plants up before – so I hope it all works!

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