30 November - Stop thieves

Now that it is dark for 16 hours out of every 24, it is important to check the integrity of boundary walls, fences, hedges and gates, and regularly test security lights, alarms and CCTV cameras, writes Sally Drury.

It is wise to anchor statuary, urns and garden art. In the workshop and machinery shed, a popular item is the quad bike — it can be ridden away quickly over rough ground and has a high resale value. Where possible, clamp large wheeled items to the floor and mark with an identification system. Store all small power tools in security cages. Plants may also be targets, so ensure that conservatories and greenhouses are locked at night.

Cold nights Make sure that sensitive plants are cosy in greenhouses and conservatories. Monitor heating systems. Wrap fleece sheets around tender plants that cannot be moved indoors. Newly planted trees and shrubs, especially conifers and less hardy subjects, will also need fleece wraps to protect them from severe cold and winds.

Cold days Ensure that all outdoor workers have suitable clothing and footwear. Plan work so something can be done undercover if the weather turns exceptionally bad.

Berries & seeds Many parts of the country have wonderful displays of berries and seeds, so wreaths, garlands and table decorations should look spectacular this year.

Walled garden Except when wet, continue to cultivate in vegetable areas and improve soils by adding garden compost. Start winter pruning of apple and pear trees.

Trees, shrubs & hedges Keep an eye on the well-being of woody subjects. Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous hedging material if there are plans for new screening or for boundary repairs in the future.

Paths and hard surfaces Moss- and algae-covered hard surfaces can become even more treacherous in wet or icy weather. Take advantage of sunny days to clean patios, terraces, steps, hard paths and driveways.

Congratulations Cotele Each year since the 1950s this National Trust property in Cornwall has made a garland of dried flowers to decorate the Great Hall. Normally the garland is around 18m long, comprises an average of 22,000 flowers and loops its way down the centre of the room. This year, although the same number of plants were grown, 40,000 flowers have been produced and dried. The resulting garland is more than 28m long and adorns the entrance as well as the Great Hall.


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