February- The garden awakens!
It is such a comfort to see signs of new growth appearing in our gardens and wildlife waking up as the day light hours increase.
What a lovely site to see snow drops, crocus and hellebores bursting forth! The pretty nodding hellebore flowers can be admired indoors, try floating the heads in a shallow dish to expose their beautiful petals. There is plenty to do in the garden in February to prepare for Spring which is just around the corner. Hedging Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges. This should be completed before the birds start nesting. Be aware of heavy snow- however beautiful it may look, it can weigh down and 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. Pruning Climbers Wisteria 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 from last year’s growth. 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. Shrubs Now is the time to prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs that flower on the current years growth such as Buddleja, hydrangea paniculata , Lavetera, leycesteria and deciduous Ceanothus. Delay pruning spring flowering shrubs until immediately after flowering otherwise this year’s display will be lost. Pruning evergreen shrubs depends on when they flower, generally this is carried out in mid to late spring. Shrubs that are in flower or about to flower can be left until flowering has finished. Grasses February is the perfect time to make a start on cutting back deciduous grasses. Popular grasses such a Miscanthus, Calamagrostis and Molinia that were left to stand during winter for their attractive biscuit coloured stems and ornamental seed heads, require cutting down to ground level before their active growth in spring begins. Pennisetum grasses start growth later and are best left for longer to protect the crown, around late April. Remove only the dead grass carefully and cut down old fronds from evergreen grasses such as Stipa gigantea . Pampas grass however is one evergreen grass that does benefit from being cut back in early spring. Be sure to wear a good pair of gloves as their leaves are razor sharp. Herbaceous perennials As new growth starts to emerge, remove old stems completely that were left for winter interest. Lawns Remain careful about walking over waterlogged or frosted grass. Lawns may need mowing soon. Use a high setting and avoid mowing if ground conditions are too soft. Roses 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. Bulbs When snowdrops have finished flowering, if you want to increase stocks, towards the end of the month and beginning of March is the time to divide and replant clumps known as “in the green”. It is still time to plant lily bulbs in containers or borders for an attractive display in summer. Nature 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. The more birds you encourage into your garden the least pests you will have eating your plants! Miscellaneous 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. 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. Clear up weedy beds before mulching. Mulching with a deep layer of organic matter helps to condition the soil, suppress weed growth, insulate plant roots from temperature fluctuations, and conserve soil moisture during the summer. Heavy soils are best left until March when the soil is warmer. February is a funny old month and 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.