Garden Tips For February

It may still be cold and wet outside but cheer up winter’s shortest day is behind us and gradually the days are getting longer bringing enough daylight for the first signs of spring to emerge in the garden.  Snowdrops began to emerge in late January and Crocus are now giving a welcome carpet of colour in many gardens helping to lift our spirits.  Hellebore flowers stand above shiny dark green foliage and spring flowering shrubs like Chaenomeles (quince) begin to blossom.  Take a close look and many shrubs will have budded ready to burst into leaf, daffodils will be preparing to flower and early summer flowering perennials will soon be starting to push through the soil.

A sunny day in late February or early March can tempt us into the garden to start preparing for warmer days but be cautious as sudden drops in temperature at this time of year can be treacherous, causing lasting damage to new plantings.

While the weather is still changeable it may be better to concentrate on the other chores that need attention at this time of year.  All garden plants benefit from a feed in the spring as many nutrients in the soil can be washed away over winter.  So lightly fork some well rotted manure or other soil conditioner into borders to help boost plants taking care not to damage emerging bulbs or perennials.   Prune winter flowering jasmine once it has finished flowering and trim winter flowering heathers as soon as the flowers start to fade.  Late summer flowering shrubs such as Buddleja and Caryopteris can be cut back hard now and keep deadheading winter bedding plants like pansies to help prolong flowering.

For extra colour in the garden you could plant up some pots of colour using spring bedding such as Primroses and Pansies, a bit of colour on the patio can help brighten up a winter day.

This is also a good time to identify problem areas of the garden and decide how best to deal with them.  All of us have an area of the garden where plants don’t do well and this can just be a matter of finding the right plant for the right place.  No matter what the problem of the site there is usually a plant that can survive.  After all many of the plants we see in the garden centres come from all over the world and all sorts of difficult situations.

Your problem spot could just be waiting for the ideal plant.  For dry shady areas try Cotoneaster, Euonymous, Mahonia, Hellebores, Japanese Anenome, Astrantia’s and Vinca Major.  For moist, shady areas try Ferns, Hosta’s, Astilbe, Geraniums, Heuchera, Iris Foetdissima and Hydrangea.  In hot, sunny sites try the wonderful Hibiscus Bluebird, Phormium’s, Lavender, Rosemary and the beautiful Bearded Iris.  In heavy clay soil Lilies do well as do Pyracantha, Primula and Bergenia.    While your thinking of plants for the garden now is the time to place orders for summer bedding through the post and if seeds arrive in the post keep them in a cool, dry place until it is time to sow them.  I’ll be back in March with more to do in the garden as the busiest time of the gardeners year begins.