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Why now is the best time to work on your indoor plants

Colour and scent are harder to find in the winter garden but we appreciate them more. Look out for a new generation of hellebores – Helleborus × ballardiae ‘Snow Dance’ has bigger, more upward-facing flowers and mottled foliage. Also, witch hazels make wonderful small trees; the butter-yellow autumn foliage is followed by scented flowers. Best suited to slightly acidic soil and a bit of shelter, Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Pallida’ and ‘Orange Peel’ are superb examples (larchcottage.co.uk and crocus.co.uk).

Two projects to plan

Order seeds for spring

Although the majority of our annuals are sown in the spring, I always order and store my seeds now to ensure that I get my hands on my favourites. Growing cut flowers for drying and home-grown vegetables are trends which I think will continue to gather momentum as we head towards our next growing season. Chilterns Seeds and Plants of Distinction online are my go-to suppliers for such things, well worth a look if you’ve not come across them before.

I store my seeds in a small metal box, which is rodent-proof, and keep that box in a cool bedroom, away from the sunlight. Cool, dark conditions are optimum for storing your seeds until you’re ready to sow in the warmer weather. 



Check pumps and filters

Lots of people are surprised when I say that the autumn and winter can be some of the busiest times in the garden. Admittedly, a good quantity of tea and biscuits are consumed, but in winter we can prepare and get on the front foot before the garden bursts into life in spring. Take this opportunity to check your pond pumps and filters, making sure that pumps are working properly and clean any filters to ensure good water quality, particularly if you have fish. Also check fences for rot, watch your gutters and keep an eye open for leaks on your shed roof – the longer these jobs are left, the bigger the task becomes.

Tom Brown is head gardener at West Dean Gardens, West Sussex

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