The weather’s been pretty cold recently, but there are exciting signs of spring starting to appear in the garden. Bulbs are starting to poke through the soil and buds are appearing on shrubs and trees – the promise of the growing season to come.
Floral & Hardy’s Top Ten Plants for February:
Anemone ‘de Caen’ –
Poppy-flowered Anemone – florists’ favourites, these brightly-coloured, bowl-shaped flowers come in white, blue, pink, red or lavender. Staggering the planting of the tubers at different times will prolong the flowering season over many months. Give them a warm, sheltered spot for best results.
Chimonanthus praecox –
Winter Sweet – a large deciduous shrub with, as the name suggests, sweetly fragrant, yellow flowers in winter. Cut some shoots to take indoors to enjoy the spicy aroma.
Cupressus sempervirens –
Pencil Cypress – although reminiscent of Tuscan hillside vistas, these stately conifers can also provide a useful ‘punctuation mark’ in any large border, or as bold statements on their own.
Daphne bholua –
A large evergreen with dark green foliage and intensely fragrant, purplish-pink flowers. Plant it near to entrances and windows to take advantage of the perfume.
Winter Aconite – planted in a drift under deciduous trees these cheerful little tubers can provide a carpet of yellow flowers to brighten up a bare garden on a dull February day.
Garrya elliptica –
Silk Tassel Bush – an evergreen wall shrub with dark green, crinkled leathery leaves and fascinating long catkin-like silvery flowers. It will grow in shady areas, but like most plants, the flowering display will be improved in sun.
Hepatica nobilis –
A rockery plant with the advantage that it flowers before most others, with blue starry flowers on short stalks above tri-lobed leaves. Another advantage is that, unlike many other rockery plants, it will grow in partial shade as well as sun.
Leucojum vernum –
Snowflake – this one looks very much like a Snowdrop, the difference being that it is taller and each petal has a green tip. It’s easy to grow but dislikes disturbance, so plant the bulbs and then leave them alone!
Mahonia media ‘Charity’ –
Another bright yellow flower, scented this time – and very attractive to Blue Tits and bees I find! The evergreen holly-like leaves also make this an attractive large shrub for the rest of the year.
Picea pungens ‘Koster’ –
A smallish, conical tree, slowly growing to only about seven or eight metres, this conifer has intensely silvery- blue foliage and a very pleasing form. It looks particularly good with pink flowering shrubs, or surrounded by winter flowering heathers.
February Tips and Advice
1. The preparation for the gardening year ahead can begin now with the digging over of established flower beds – provided the ground is not frozen or waterlogged! Get rid of all the perennial weeds and sprinkle on a general fertiliser.
2. Try to keep your lawn free of worm casts by brushing off gently – you don’t want to tread them in as this will cause problems with bare patches and moss later.
3. Many perennial and annual seeds can be sown now, just follow the instructions on the packet. This is such a cheap way of stocking your garden and you may even have some plants left over that you can give to friends!
4. New Rose bushes can be planted out from the middle of the month. Prepare the soil by adding some bonemeal fertiliser and then carefully plant so that the swelling just above the roots (the graft) is just below soil level. Spread the roots out carefully and tread the soil gently around them so that there are no air pockets and the roots won’t dry out.
5. Climbing Roses (not ramblers) can be pruned this month. Keep five to seven strong new stems and cut out the older wood. Also cut back any side shoots to about three buds from their base to encourage flowering. Then tie everything in to the support to prevent wind damage later.
6. This is also the month for pruning some Clematis – not the spring flowering ones like ‘alpina’ or ‘montana’, but those that flower later, from May onwards. You will need to check which ‘group’ your Clematis is in (it will usually say on the label). Group 2 Clematis flower from May to July and any weak or dead stems should be cut out and the remainder back by about 30cms, to just above a pair of plump buds. Group 3 Clematis flower from July – October and should be cut back harder – to about 75cms from the ground.
7. If you didn’t prune your Buddleia in the autumn, now’s the time to do it – it will put on a lot of growth during the year, so, if you don’t want all the flowers so high up you can’t really see them, cut it back hard – it’s very hard to kill a Buddleia!
8. If you need any large trees cutting back, get it done before the end of the month, before the sap starts to rise and swelling buds can be damaged by falling branches. Always get a professional tree surgeon to do this – to prevent damage to the tree and to yourself!
9. Bare-rooted hedges can be planted this month (provided the soil is not frozen or too wet) – a much cheaper option than containerised.
10. If you’ve got any Heathers that have become straggly and a bit unsightly – fear not, you can revitalise them by digging up now and replanting in a hole big enough to take the whole plant with just the tips left showing. After a year all the tips will have rooted, enabling you to dig them up and replant as lots of separate little plants! Another great way to save money!
By Helen Ellison, Garden Designer