February is one of the most important months on the gardening calendar. Why? One word - pruning! It is the last chance to get essential pruning jobs complete.
Many plants are 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 5 mm above an outward facing bud that slope away from the bud, this helps avoid rot from sitting rain water.
Climbing, rambling, hybrid tea, floribunda and shrub roses can all be pruned now. 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 (Group three) 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.
Prune apple and pear trees whilst they are dormant (prune from November till early March). 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 visable pests and reduce tree height.
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.
By complete contrast February also brings some amazing gifts in the shape of Galanthus nivalis snowdrops and Hamamelis (mollis and x intermedia) witch hazel:
Crocus start popping up through lawns and borders and Helleborus uncurl their magnificent petals and humbling hang their heads in glorious technicolour:
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina', Mahonia japonia x media 'Charity', Acacia dealbata Mimosa are all shining like sun beams this time of year and have been for most of winter. Good plants for longevity of flowering period:
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:
Camellia japonica, petite Iris reticulata 'Harmony' and Vinca major 'Alba' are all radiantly blooming with sumptuous whites 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 is pretty non-descript for most of the year but January/February you discover why it is such an asset in the garden. A wealth of dainty bell-like drooping heads of enticingly scented flowers cover bare woody stems.