December ought not to be a very busy time in the garden. Any work, however, which was not completed during November can be finished during mild weather; for instance, planting flowering shrubs, dividing perennials, and putting in late-flowering bulbs. Trenching and digging vacant ground should be proceeded with when the weather is sufficiently dry.
Any faded flowers which remain must be cut down; in forking over borders be careful not to injure bulbs. Plants of doubtful hardiness - e.g., tender roses - should have a surface covering of bracken or other light litter. If dead leaves are used, some soil should be drawn over them to keep in place. Hand-lights should be placed over Christmas roses to prevent the plants being soiled. Dahlia tubers which were taken indoors when frosts arrived should be examined, and if found to be at all damp they should be kept for a few days in the dwelling-house.
All flowering shrubs, such as Weigela, Spiraeas, Buddleia, Snowball trees, and Dogwood, should be thoroughly cleared of dead wood and old, useless branches.
Rubbish may be burned up when the weather is dry enough, and the ashes should be sprinkled on the lawn or dug into borders.
The grass must be kept clear of leaves, and rolled occasionally after sweeping.
Creepers on walls should be tied up and trained. Experience is necessary in the case of such climbers as clematis, in order to know whether the last year's wood is to be removed, according to the variety. Clematis montana and other allied species flower on the old wood, while the large-flowered Jackmanni section can be cut back hard in preparation for next year's growth.
The damp days of early December give a good opportunity for bulb-planting in the grass. Snowdrops, aconites, crocuses, daffodils, and , many other bulbs will make a charming picture if planted in turf and allowed to remain undisturbed. As pretty bulbs also may be included the little grape hyacinths or muscari.
Draw the soil up around plants of cabbage, and bend over the leaves of broccoli as a protection in severe weather, and also to promote drainage. Globe artichokes do not winter well in heavy soils, and should be protected with a layer of coal ashes around the crowns.
Vacant ground should be deeply dug and manured during open weather. In times of frost, manure may be wheeled on to beds and plots.
The pruning of fruit-trees should be begun this month. Be careful not to prune in frosty weather. The main points in winter pruning are to thin out weakly wood, to remove branches where these cross each other unduly, and to allow air to penetrate to the centre.
Do not allow branches to remain in a young tree if these will have later on to be removed, or the tree will suffer eventually. A young half-standard should be cut back until sufficient shoots are formed to produce main branches.
Hoops of wood may be placed in the centre of the tree and the young branches trained over them. Remove only the unripened points every year while these shoots are young. As soon as the trees reach the required height, it will only be needful to cut off the top shoots or to cut back the strongest side shoots to one or two eyes. Fruiting spurs will thus be formed. These are recognised by their pointed shape and wrinkled and crowded growth.
Pears should not be too severely pruned in winter, unless they have been grafted on a quince stock. If it is wished to encourage, chiefly the supply of young shoots, shorten the branches, but otherwise the summer shortening ought to suffice. In the illustration is shown a Louise Bonne de Jersey pear, an example of proper pruning and training, in full fruit.
Pryamid Pear in Fruit Louise Bonne de Jersey Peai Photo by Drake Copyright: J. Veitch & Sons, Chelsa