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.
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.
This month has been a month of surprise weather commencing in a brief blanket of snow and then moving to sunny blue skies encouraging everyone to strip off into T-shirts!
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.
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.
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 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.
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. Helleborus uncurl their magnificent petals and humbly hang their heads in glorious technicolour.