This Month in the Garden December/January with Kate Hill

I’m afraid I’m going to start this last article of the year on something of a sad note. At the moment my garden is not the hive of activity it usually is, in fact it’s extremely quiet and that’s because I’ve had to remove all the bird feeders for a few weeks.
The reason for this being, I strongly suspect, a couple of birds seen recently were suffering from Trichomonosis, the disease that wiped out many greenfinches a few years ago, although it can affect any bird species, particularly doves and pigeons. Affected birds eventually die of starvation because the disease, caused by a parasite, causes lesions in the throat preventing them being able to swallow food.
The RSPB recommends suspending feeding for three weeks and emptying bird baths. All bird tables and feeders should be cleaned regularly in any event but it is very distressing to find infected birds, so I just wanted to make readers aware in case anyone else notices signs of sickness in their feathered friends.

Moving on to the garden, we’ve had such a glorious mild autumn there are still a number of plants in flower including fuchsias like the white variety ‘Hawkshead’ in this photo and the aptly named white parahebe ‘Avalanche’, also pictured right.
This gorgeous low growing evergreen plant flowers for months on end as long as it’s deadheaded regularly. I grow mine in a container along with other white flowering plants, including gaura and salvia. In winter I move the pot to a sheltered spot and wrap it with fleece and, touch wood, all the plants have survived for several years.

Also still putting on a good show, although I suspect for not much longer, is salvia ‘Blue Butterflies’. Its cobalt blue flowers are an absolute joy but before the frosts can damage it I’ll dig it up and keep it sheltered over the winter months. Although I’ve taken some cuttings as ‘insurance’ it would be a shame to lose this particular plant.
As autumn draws to a close I had to include the acer as my star photo this month. When its purple foliage turns to bright red it is a thing of wonder but it comes with a tinge of sadness knowing the show will be all too brief and heralds the onset of winter but I want to end the year on a positive note so, by the time you read this the shortest day of 21st December will be almost upon us, then we can start to look forward to longer days again.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Salvia ‘Bule Butterflies’