February -Spring is in sight!
Updated: Mar 1
There are signs of the approaching of spring with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels increase.
It’s a good time to prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges. This should be completed before the birds start nesting.
However, although we are experiencing relatively mild weather, we are not out of winter yet! So beware if it snows. Snow is heavy, as anyone caught in an avalanche can tell you. It weighs down and can snap young branches, especially if they are coming into bud and leaf towards the end of the month, so sweep any snow off your young hedges as soon as you can.
If any conifer branches or yew for instance, have become bent down or misshapen over winter, the best thing is not to cut them off which will leave a gap but to tie them back up again. Use plastic coated wire to attach the drooping branch to the trunk of the tree to restore the balance. Pad where the wire encircles the trunk using an old rag to protect the tree.
If you did not get around to pruning your wisteria in January, then you need to prune any side shoots back to 2-3 buds. The wisteria will then be shocked into producing more flower buds and the effect will be a splendid display of purple or white racemes come the spring.
Jasmines require attention at this time of year. The yellow winter jasmine – Jasmine nudiflorum – needs pruning once the flowers are over otherwise it can become lanky and unruly. Cut out any diseased or damaged wood and then spread the main branches over the area that you want covered and tie them in to the wall support to make your basic framework. Then on each main branch, shorten the sideshoots to 5cm from the main stem for a sunburst of flowers next winter. Feed with an organic fertiliser and mulch. If you are short on mulch, a flat stone at the base of the plant will keep the roots cool and the moisture in.
Late flowering Clematis (group 3) bloom from summer to late autumn and include Clematis texensis (eg Duchess of Albany) the Clematis viticellas (eg Etoile Violette,Polish Spirit) and some late flowering hybrids like the popular ‘Jackmanii’ or ‘Ville de Lyon’ . All should be dealt with towards the end of the month. Because they grow afresh every year they are ideal to grow through other shrubs and at the end of February you just need to cut them down to about 25-45 cm from the ground and above a healthy bud. When you clear away the old and often tangled growth, be careful not to damage any of the slightly brittle new growth that may already be emerging, or the supporting plant for that matter. Feed and mulch once you have pruned and, as with the jasmine, use a stone to cover the roots to keep them cool and moist if you do not have any mulch to hand. Pruning annually prevents congested nests of clematis that only flower at the top.
Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs that flower on the current years growth such as buddleja, hydrangea, Lavetera and deciduous ceanothus.
Clip back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter such as Miscanthus, down to ground level before their active growth in spring. Remove dead grass from evergreen grasses.
Any roses that you pruned earlier may have suffered a little dieback over the winter so towards the end of the month in the South – best left till March for those further North – you can prune back any dark, brown twiggy ends to your roses.
If you did not prune your roses in November then you can think about pruning them properly this month.
Check that any climbing roses are still tied in to their support structures.
Give roses a top dressing of Rose food and then mulch your rose bed with well rotted you know what.
When snowdrops have finished flowering, if you want to increase stocks, now is the time to divide and replant clumps ( known as “in the green”).
February is the hungriest month for wildlife and it pays to feed your birds and small mammals not only for the joy of seeing them about in the garden but because it will distract them from feasting on any bulbs and buds.
Really boring one this one, but gutters are worth checking for moss and leaves that are clogging up the drainage. Any trapped muck is a great addition to the compost.
Remain careful about walking over waterlogged or frosted grass.
Open the doors and windows of your greenhouse on a sunny day to let the air circulate so the through draught will help rid you of spores and mildews that may otherwise thrive and cause disease in your plants.
February is a funny old month and it often flatters to deceive. There is always the chance of a few warm days that can fool one into thinking winter is gone. But March often comes in "like a lion" so don't be in too much of a hurry to plant out less tender plants or to remove winter protection.