Get cold comfort

Cover star: Top, Euphorbia wulfenii covered by a plastic cloche in March; below, growing strongly in summer; bottom, in a fleece bag for winter.

Cover star: Top, Euphorbia wulfenii covered by a plastic cloche in March; below, growing strongly in summer; bottom, in a fleece bag for winter.

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TO fleece or not to fleece? That is the question.

I’ve always been inclined to let plants tough it out and not mollycoddle them. However, since the big overhaul, I have realised that :

a) I spent an awful lot of money on plants;

b) some of them are hardy, but borderline VERY hardy;

c) they’re not mature and

d) I just don’t want to lose them.

Here’s the plants I’ve tried to shield from the worst of the weather. If they succumb, well, I did my best.

Gunnera: replanted at the beginning of the year, which it didn’t like at all. The general advice is to cover its crown with its own huge leaves to stop it rotting. As it only had three smallish leaves, I’ve given it a fetching fleece tent.

Euphorbia wulfenii: Has its own fleece bag, as it is only hardy down to -5˚C. Fingers crossed.

Kniphofia (red hot pokers); I have two, only planted last winter. Ice Queen – green tipped buds opening palest creamy-yellow is hardy down to -10˚C. It seems Kniphofia uvaria Nobilis, with fiery red, large flower spikes is classified as hardy in very cold winters.

It’s wet feet that could be the downfall of these two, but Ice Queen is on quite a gravelly site, so should be OK.

The new “woodland” beds at the top of the garden are full of hardy herbaceous perennials, but just to make sure, I’ve covered them with a 2in mulch of compost. This will act as an insulating blanket, smother weeds and improve the soil as it gets incorporated by worms, etc.

The giant mulleins (Verbascum bombyciferum) I’ve also heavily mulched. One of them didn’t make the growth I’d hoped for this year, so I’m hoping for the best.

The only plants I’ve cut back are the ornamental rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) and Rodgersia, as they live by the pond and their huge leaves wither, die and rot very easily, falling into the water.

Leaving the dead stems provides some protection to the crowns, gives structure to the garden and also provides overwintering sites for insects, so the birds have something to feed on.

If we do get heavy snow, try to knock it off branches of conifers, which are often broken by the weight.

Snow cover provides an insulating blanket to bare soil, so leave it be until it melts.

Also, don’t walk on frosted grass – it harms the turf.