This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of me appearing on BBC Radio Sussex to talk about gardens that open for the National Garden Scheme across Sussex, Surrey and North East Hampshire.

I can’t quite believe how the time has gone by so quickly. You can catch up with me talking to Joe Talbot tomorrow, Sunday, January 30, at about 1.35pm and then over the next nine months, usually on the last Sunday of the month. Tomorrow’s subject will be the scheme’s many snowdrop openings across the patch.

This is the time of year when heathers start to come into their own. I have a few in the garden and one white one, in particular, looks really good at the moment. It’s Erica “White Perfection”. Its dark green foliage is literally covered with blooms in season. What’s more, the spreading mounds of neat evergreen foliage smother out the weeds, making them a superb choice for ground cover.

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Starting in late autumn and early winter and continuing in to spring, Ericas really come into their own in the coldest months, becoming completely covered in little spikes of bell-shaped flowers – which the bees adore. These compact evergreen shrubs are great in gardens large or small, as well as containers, and offer a wide choice of foliage and flower colours – some are even scented. They are particularly good for cold sites and for providing winter colour. As they age, they tend to become straggly, with bare legs but they don’t regenerate well if you cut back into old wood, so it’s usually best to replace them every few years. They need very little care, pot-grown specimens will need feeding during the growing season.

I’ve got a couple of large grape vines in the garden, one concealing the shed and the other across the front of the studio. They were not really planted to gather the crops of grapes each year but more to provide the greenery and soften the impact of the garden buildings. However, we have picked grapes some years if the weather has been kind and produced a good crop. This time of the year is a good time to prune them, while they are dormant. Once, if, the warmer weather eventually arrives, their sap will start to rise and there is a risk they might bleed badly when cut. Generally, vines will produce fruit on the side shoots developed from last year’s growth. The guide books say by restricting growth and the number of shoots, you should get a much better-quality crop. Time will tell.

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