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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

February Garden Jobs

All hail the snowdrops

February is a tremendously exciting month. The Christmas fog has long cleared, the January blues now laid to rest and onward we all stride into February. Lighter evenings, buds breaking and the first bulbs of the new year are popping their heads above ground. For a few weeks now snowdrops have been gracing woody dells and spreading hope. Dainty elegant blooms, nobly bowing their heads and offering a welcome splash of purity against a carpet of green.

Click photos to enlarge galley.

The arrival of snowdrops provides an ideal excuse to get outdoors and go for a good walk. A winter stomp around local woodland can uncover precious white treasure equally there are some stunning gardens open to the public which have fabulous displays this time of the year.

In the West Country try East Lambrook Manor Gardens and Painswick Rococo Garden have a tremendous display.

The passed month has been a mixed bag, from frosty starts to torrential deluges and then moving to sunny blue skies encouraging everyone to strip off a layer or two! As always keeping us gardeners on our toes.

February is one of the most important months on the gardening calendar. Why? One word - pruning! It is the final push to get essential pruning complete before nature fully comes out of hibernation and ramps up into overdrive, although there is already a tremendous amount of new growth and bursting buds due to the mild weather.

Many plants are still dormant so it is an ideal time to prune them before the sap starts rising and buds burst into action. All pruning requires sharp secateurs or lopers. Make clean cuts roughly five mm above an outward facing bud that slope away from the bud, this helps avoid rot from sitting rain water.

Prune apple and pear trees

Old secateurs can be brought back to life with a good service. Take a look at my post on how to:

Prune roses. Establish what rose(s) you have and prune to specific guide lines of that cultivar. General advice, reduce stems by third to a half; this stimulates new flowering growth. Cut out any dead stems or dieback to fresh wood, this should encourage new growth. If a plant performed poorly last year, be brave, prune hard to renovate; roses are tough and bounce back, a fresh, more compact version of its former self.

Prune Wisteria. Reduce shoots pruned last July/August to two to three buds. This concentrates the energy on generating short spurs for this year's flower display and restricts excessive foliage growth.

Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering such as Jasminum nudiflorum winter flowering Jasmine.

Summer flowering Clematis can be pruned now as they flower on this season's growth so prune hard to around 30cm from the base and new growth will soon appear.

Spectacular clematis seed heads

Prune apple and pear trees whilst they are dormant (prune from December till end of February). Winter pruning ultimately stimulates new growth but it also improves ventilation, light and shape. Look at your tree and select damaged, diseased or dead material to remove, any visible pests and reduce tree height.

Photo below shows apple canker, Neonectria ditissima, a fungal disease. Remove branches displaying these symptoms back to healthy wood.

Prune out diseased branches

Buddleja davidii and Sambucus (elderflower) respond well to being pruned hard. They are both vigorous growers and soon restore their stems. The hard prune ensures a good display of fresh summer flowers.

Not everything in the winter garden is dormant in February. Far from it...

Crocus bloom in February

By complete contrast February also brings some amazing gifts. Crocus start popping up through lawns whilst woodland fill with Galanthus nivalis snowdrops.

Helleborus uncurl their magnificent petals and humbly hang their heads in glorious technicolour.

Richly coloured petals lighten up shady borders. Remove old leaves to reduce the spread of fungal diseases and expose these beautiful drooping heads.

Helleborus surrounded by a carpet of slate

Acacia dealbata Mimosa shines, Hamamelis (mollis and x intermedia) witch hazel flood bare branches and the spiky foliage of Mahonia japonica x media 'Charity' hosts its exquisite scented flowers. Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina' is also a fantastic work horse that never seems to stop flowering.

Vinca major 'Alba,' dwarf Iris reticulata and Camellia japonica are all radiantly blooming with sumptuous white, pink and rich blue hues.

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is in its prime January/February. Daphne is a slow growing evergreen shrub which exudes intoxicating scent. An absolute must if space allows.

Chaenomeles speciosa Japanese quince flowers on bare stems and is a wonderfully colourful edition to brighten up walled areas at this time of year.

Chimonanthus praecox winter sweet, Sarcococca hookeriana and Lonicera fragrantissima winter flowering honeysuckle are such an asset now. A wealth of dainty bell-like drooping heads of enticingly scented flowers cover bare woody stems.

Wafts of exquisite scent are emitted from Virburnum x bodnantense.

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' (m) and 'Nymans (f) planted together ensure bright red berries on the female shrub and an effortless relentless flowering period over winter in shady borders.

Winter aconites

Aconites and Garrya elliptica 'James Roof' whose colour respectively brings the garden out of hibernation and hints that hope of the new season is on its way.

Garrya eliptica 'James Roof'

February is also a great month for a spring clean before the garden leaps into action. Tidy beds, deadhead and generally maintain plant health to ensure they make it through the final chapter of winter. Remove rotten or mouldy material.

If the weather is not of arctic temperatures then wash the greenhouse windows inside and out. Ensure everything is cleaned down, zapping over wintering pest and diseases. Sparkling windows will let in every drop of light.

Look under pots, old bags of compost and general nooks and piles of materials. Slugs and snails will probably have set up home so remove them to your 'bug hotel' before they become active. Run your 'gloved' hand under the rim of garden containers, this is a classic hideout for elusive mini-beasts.

Check pots for over wintering snails & slugs

Weed thoroughly to deter perennials taking over and annuals going to seed. Clearing weeds now will help prevent them taking hold later.

Many perennials can be divided now. When snowdrops have finished flowering they can be divided. This helps rejuvenate plants and double your stock.

Check over-wintering dahlias for rot or dried shrivelled tubers. If sand has dried out, lightly mist with water but do not soak. Can be potted on end of the month and new shoots will sprout.

Be careful not disturb soil unnecessarily whilst weeding as this will bring dormant seed to the surface and create the next generation of weeds!

Mulch bare soil from now to March if not frozen! This helps keep weeds down and will suppress weed seed germinating. Well rotten horse manure is ideal to add nutrients and improve soil structure.

Cut back grasses to approximately 30cm if not already done so before new growth appears. If you have Stipa grasses then hand pull rather than cut.

Cut grasses back ready for new growth

We all get a bit twitchy this time of year and the desire to sow seeds is difficult to resist. Good to hold off till end of the month for the grand sow-a-thon but great to start your season off sowing chillies. The chilli craze really seems to have crescendoed! Easy to grow and so many varieties to choose from; the colours and strengths in heat can become a collector's paradise.

If possible try and buy organic seed, then your entire gardening process from start to finish can be pesticide-free.

This year I am growing seven different varieties: Early Jalapeneo, Hot Cayennette, Cherry Bomb, Purple Serrano, Numex Twilight, Hungarian Hot Wax and Orange Wonder and I am also sowing seed I saved from last year's chillies. It will be a good experiment to see how they fair? Look forward to having a 'hot' summer!

Herbs are also a fantastic all-year-round sow if you have a warm windowsill. As we lead onwards to March the floodgates to seed sowing open and it's game on! Sowing and growing 2020 here we come.

Starting February with a combo of frosty and rainy mornings, gardens can be viewed striped back to its bare bones; a brief pause... before mother nature suddenly flicks the 'on' switch and everything has burst back into life. Here are some wonderful blooms from my garden... Crocus 'Orange Monarch' Hyacinth 'Pink Pearl' and Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete.'

Enjoy all the planning, prepping and colourful, scented delights of the February garden.

Spring is just a round the corner...

Rhubarb, beautiful pale forced stems & dark leafed unforced

All photos taken by Debi Holland © 2020

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