Most gardens look rather drab at this time of the year even if a number of plants, such as laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) and wintersweet, (Chimonanthus praecox), are being grown for winter flowers and scent. A visually unexciting garden may be unavoidable in January but the garden will look much better if it is kept tidy.
An untidy garden is more obvious in the middle of winter because, when the leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees and herbaceous plants have died down, some previously hidden garden eyesores will be exposed. This is a good time to go round the garden and tidy everything up: repair broken fences and trellis; cut or tie back plants that are overhanging paths or the lawn; remove canes and other supports left standing in beds, clear away containers and windowboxes standing empty or full of dead plants.
Choose a dry day and hoe the soil to loosen the surface compacted by winter rains; this will give the garden a cultivated look, and make an enormous difference to its appearance. This job is physical enough to keep you warm!
Mulches also improve the appearance of bare soil, although they are best applied for the first time in spring when the soil has warmed up but is still moist. Existing mulches that have worn thin, or become disturbed by animals and birds rummaging for food, can be raked over and topped up if necessary. Wait until there is a mild day – don’t mulch over frozen soil.