It’s an exciting and romantic time in the garden, with lots to do this month, and so much to look forward to in the garden! Take time out to relax and enjoy the wonderfully scented flowers of Daphne, Sarcococca, and Hamamelis.
Prune Buddleja davidii now. If you’ve got an old, and maybe rather neglected, specimen then start to rejuvenate your plant now, by removing any old dead wood and cutting it back hard. If you don’t prune, your Buddleja will still flower, but the plant will be much taller, and it will look rather tatty too; so get your loppers out and maybe a saw as well!
Ornamental grasses and roses also need pruning this month. Remove any old dead leaves still attached to your rose plants, as well as any leaves that are lurking around in the soil amongst your plants. Then feed your roses with a specially designed rose feed, and mulch with compost or well-rotted manure.
If you’re looking to buy snowdrops in ‘the green’ please only buy from reputable growers, to avoid purchasing bulbs that have been stolen or dug up from the wild.
A number of plants can be divided now: Achillea millefolium and Achillea filipendulina, Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconites), Solidago canadensis (Golden rod), Lily of the Valley, Echinops ritro (Globe thistle), Michaelmas daisies, and Sedums. Get your forks ready, as there is lots of dividing to do!
It’s a good time to start off hardy annuals to provide colour, interest, cut flowers, and valuable food and nectar for bees, butterflies, and pollinating insects later in the summer. If you haven’t already sown some sweet peas, then do sow some now. Sweet peas are wonderfully cheery flowers to have, they are beautiful as cut flowers with a heavenly fragrance; I can’t be without them! You’ll find that sweet peas will get off to a very good start if you sow your seed in tall containers, which allow for their long roots; deep Rootrainers, the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls, or deep plastic pots, all work well.
If you would like to grow more plants beneficial to bees and other pollinating insects then now is a good time to sow Ageratum houstonianum, Calendula officinalis, Nigella damascena, Cosmos bipinnatus, Machaeranthera tanacetifolia, Verbena bonariensis, and Papaver rhoeas.
Remove any discoloured, or worse still, diseased leaves from your Hellebores – make sure you dispose of the leaves properly, either burning or binning them, don’t add these leaves to your compost heap.
Prune group three clematis: these clematis flower in late summer, on this season’s growth. As new growth appears from the base of the plant each year, these clematis can be pruned hard in February or March. Cut back the old stems to the lowest healthy pair of buds, which is usually about 15-30cm (6in-1ft) above soil level.
You can also prune winter-flowering Jasmine now: first trim out any dead or damaged wood, then tie in stems that are needed to extend the main framework. Next, shorten the side shoots to 5cm (2in). This will allow for a tidy, more uniform shape, and will hopefully encourage better flowering next year. Feed with an organic fertiliser and apply a mulch of organic matter.
In the greenhouse: sow aubergines, tomatoes, chilli, celery, celeriac, summer cabbage, melons, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, leeks, onions, okra, and French beans.
Under cloches: sow beetroot, and carrots.
Outside: sow Brussels sprouts, cabbages, spinach beet, peas, parsnips – sow radish in the same row as parsnips: the radish will germinate and grow quickly, before the parsnips, which germinate very slowly need the room. Sowing these vegetables together in the same row makes the best use of the space you have available. Plant seakale, shallots, onion sets, Jerusalem artichokes, and rhubarb. Chit potatoes now too.
Plant Lily bulbs, and bare rooted trees, shrubs, and roses now.
Dig in overwintered green manure, so the ground can settle before sowing. Take basal cuttings of Chrysanthemums and Delphiniums. Plant Dahlia tubers in the greenhouse, so you can take cuttings and increase your stock once the plants start into growth.
Allow worm casts on lawns to dry, and then brush them away. Spike badly drained areas of lawn.
Check all tools and machinery – sharpen and overhaul if necessary.
Sprinkle rock potash around fruit trees. Spread a mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost around fruit trees. Protect early flowering blossom from frost damage.
Feed redcurrants and whitecurrants with rock potash. Feed blackcurrants with blood, fish and bonemeal. Dig in overwintered green manure, so the ground can settle before sowing. Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and save time weeding, once weeds start into active growth.
If your garden is looking a little lack lustre at the moment, why not plan a trip to your local nursery or garden centre, and treat yourself to a new plant that’s about to flower. Your new plant will add more interest to your garden, and will hopefully provide greater supply of pollen and nectar for bumble bees and other pollinating insects. Look out for the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo when making your selections, or ask for advice at your local nursery.
Mulch around plants to conserve moisture, and save time weeding later in the season.
Deadhead winter-flowering pansies and violas.
With snowdrops, Scilla, and crocus flowering and daffodils now coming into bloom why not plan a trip out to an inspiring garden to enjoy these cheerful flowers; Clandon Park, The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Winkworth Arboretum, and RHS Garden Wisley, all have lovely displays. Enjoy the month ahead!
This article was first published in the mid-February 2014 edition of The Surrey and Hants News.
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