My garden in February
February is the month when there are signs of spring. The days are noticeably longer and bulbs are pushing their way through the soil. This year everything has been more advanced because the beginning of January was so mild. Unfortunately the frost and snow later in the month may well have slowed things down.
Gardening in February can be just as enjoyable as gardening in the summer. This is the time when you can really start to think ahead and get things going. Sowing seeds is always exciting, waiting for the leaves to emerge and watching the plants grow. Start the year with beautiful winter flowering plants and enjoy a colourful garden year round.
Planting – some good combinations
I love seeing the early spring plants coming into flower. They always seem to me to bring a feeling of a new beginning, a chance to put the past behind you. The flowers are bright and full of hope while autumn flowers – however lovely in their own way – always give the sense of things coming to an end.
Mahonia x Media will be flowering now with delicately scented yellow flowers. You can plant them with Euonymus fortunei Emerald n’ Gold to brighten up a shady area.
Daphne - a nymph for all seasons
A truly wonderful shrub is the Daphne, a name associated in classical mythology with a water nymph with whom the god Apollo fell in love. When she fled from his attentions, her mother, Earth, swept her up to safety, leaving behind only a laurel tree, which may hint at possible plant combinations in the ancient Greek world. No reason why Daphne and laurel shouldn’t work together now too.
There are so many varieties of Daphne but I love them all. Some flower before their leaves are out, others are evergreen. You can usually find a time of the year when some species of Daphne is flowering. The only thing to be wary about is they are highly toxic and the sap may irritate the skin, so perhaps Apollo had a lucky escape.
Daphne mezereum flowers on bare branches and has purplish/pink scented flowers or white if you plant Daphne mezereum f. alba. Plant with Snowdrops, Crocus or early Narcissi. There is also Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill, which flowers in January and February. You can plant it with Cyclamen coum.
Winter pansies will still be flowering; they go well with primroses, which will be starting to flower now.
Skimmia x confusa Kew Green will be coming into bud to flower later on. These scented plants are really useful to fill gaps. They are happy in the shade. Plant with winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis)
Hamamelis x intermedia Pallida, best known as witch hazel will be still flowering, has large scented yellow flowers. It goes well with Epimedium x rubrum or the delightful viola odorata. Cut some of the branches and bring into the house for a wonderful scent.
In the greenhouse
There is plenty to do in the greenhouse now and as it is still quite cold outside a very pleasant few hours can be spent preparing for summer. Gladioli corms can be encouraged to sprout before planting by placing in the light in a warm greenhouse. Put them into boxes or seed trays. The same with Dahlia tubers. It is also the time to plant Lily bulbs.
Hardy annuals can be sown into pots now. If your greenhouse is heated or inside the house now is the ideal time to sow summer bedding which need to be kept warm and given plenty of light. If you’ve not yet sown your Sweet Pea seeds they ought to be sown this month. Autumn sown Sweet Peas will now be ready to be potted on.
Plug plants will start appearing in garden centres. They are well worth buying to grow on and get a head start for planting up hanging baskets and pots in April.
Take soft tip cuttings of Fuchsias. Remember, always cut where the leaves meet the stem as this is where the new roots will start to grow. If you cut the stem halfway down between the leaves your cutting won’t take as the new roots will not grow from there.
Check on tender plants outside to make sure their protective covering is still in place. Dead head Winter Pansies and Cyclamen to help keep them flowering.
Give all beds a really good weed before they become full of plants. Put on a mulch of organic matter. Before the end of the month plants will enjoy a feed of growmore or fish blood and bone to help get their growth started.
There is still time to divide perennials and move established trees and shrubs. Do continue to plant new shrubs, trees and climbers.
Pruning shrubs and climbers
Once winter flowering shrubs have flowered they can now be pruned. I know it can be confusing when to prune shrubs but a simple guideline is to prune your shrubs after flowering. The only exception, which should be easy to remember, is summer flowering shrubs. Instead of pruning summer flowering shrubs once they have flowered, prune them in the spring. That’s because plants such as Hydrangea, Lavatera and Fuchsia flower on the current season’s growth. They can be pruned after flowering but it’s usually best to protect the emerging buds from the bad weather in the winter. If you remember to do this you won’t go far wrong.
Cornus and Salix should be stooled (cut back hard) to just off the ground. This will give you colourful stems next winter. Winter Heathers can also be trimmed now. Be careful not to cut back into the old wood.
Late summer and autumn flowering Clematis need cutting back to the lowest pair of strong buds. Winter Jasmine can also be pruned once the flowers have finished.
Evergreen and deciduous hedges can be pruned now as well.
Lawns, not forgetting the worms
You may occasionally need to cut the grass in mild weather. I cut my grass on high once during January as the earlier mild and wet weather had really made it grow.
Back to the vegetables
Now is the time to prepare the vegetable seedbed ready for planting it up later in the season. Vegetables can now be sown under cover in the greenhouse.