Ciaran Burke

Ciaran Burke, Head of Horticulture at Johnstown Garden Centre

Happy New Year!

Christmas is behind us, and we certainly hope that everyone had a peaceful and restful time, we now face into a new year, and for gardeners it is a time of hope and promise. Even in the depths of winter there is much to enjoy in the garden, and even on cold wintry days, we can find plants to admire in the house, in the greenhouse and jobs to be done in the shed.

Get Planting

Wrap up warm and enjoy some fresh air. Shrubs trees and herbaceous perennials can be planted at any time of year, provided the soil is not frozen. Planting early in the year gives plants time to settle as roots start to establish earlier helping them deal with drier conditions that will surely arrive later in the year.

Sow Some Seeds

Start planning the vegetable garden, new season seeds are available from January, buy early to get the best selection. Sow winter salad on a windowsill or in the greenhouse, early sowings of hardy annuals can be done now: flowers such as cornflower, Ammi majus and Cerinthe, they will give a nice crop of flowers in early summer.

Grow Your Own Flower & Vegetable Seeds (

A Bit of Tidying

Trim back ivy, virginia creepers and other climbers that have outgrown their space, it is good to do this now so that you do not disturb birds when they are nesting later in the year.

Clear away mossy or green patches from decks, patios and paths, as they may become slippery. Use a product such as Algon, a natural and organic product that is safe to use on most surfaces including tarmac.

Feed The Birds

As the weather can get colder, provide nutrient rich foods for birds, fatballs and suet-based treats. There is a wide range available from our online store including feeders and accessories, or come into the store had have browse through the great selection where we are always happy to help and advise you.

Wildbird Food - Bird Care (

Rotate Your House Plants

Houseplants tend to grow in the direction of the main light source, so they usually grow uneven and twrds the window. Each week rotate your plants one quarter of a circle so that they don’t lean to one side only. Most house plants don’t need much feeding at this time of year, but a weekly spray over with a House Plant Myst will keep them looking healthy. The heating will be on more during winter and the air will be drier, many houseplants dislike dry air so mist over the foliage a couple of times each week with tepid water so as to increase humidity.

If you have got any new house plants as presents, it is good to pot them on into a pot one size bigger using Westland Houseplant Potting Mix



Plant Recommendations from Ciaran Burke

Ciaran Burke, Head of Horticulture at Johnstown Garden Centre suggests some of his favourite plants for planting now.

Plants to Add Winter Colour

In January the garden is stripped bare of its summer decorations as herbaceous perennials have died back, evergreen shrubs, trees and shrubs with ornamental bark and interesting growth habits attract our eye and provide interest throughout the depths of winter. Here are some ideas to add interest to the garden in Winter.

Colourful Stems

  • Dogwoods – many cornus are easy to grow plants that have vibrant colourful stems that look their best in mid-winter. Cornus alba has sealing wax red stems, it is easy to grow and and can be pruned hard each spring to limit its size and provide vigorous new shoots that will have great colour. Cornus ‘Winter Beauty’ and Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ have stems and with the tones of a warm fire, yellow orange and red, not as vigorous as Cornus alba so ideal for smaller gardens and they also look great in pots.

Interesting Bark

  • Himalayan Birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii is a wonderful tree that looks its best in winter, and is suitable even for small to medium sized gardens. Bereft of its summer foliage we are left to admire the shining white bark that loosely peels away. For something a little, one of my favourite trees is Chinese Silver Birch, Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’ the peeling bark reveals coppery tones and shades of tan, pink and purple coated with a white wash of greyish bloom. A real stunner!

Something to Smell

  • Sweet Box is a low growing evergreen shrub that produces dainty white blooms that are strongly perfumed. I grow a number of different types in the garden, two of my favurites are, Sarcococca ‘Fragrant Valley’ and Sarcococca ‘Winter Gem’: both small shrubs that will reach about 1 metre (3 feet) in time. Tolerant of shade and great in containers too. Sweet Box will fill you garden with sweet scents and happiness in the middle of winter, brightening the darkest days.

All these plants and many others are available in-store here at Johnstown Garden Centre.