February is a month still firmly in the grip of winter but it offers us tantalising glimpses of spring and the expectation of better weather just around the corner. It's a month filled with snowdrops, early daffodils, hellebores, witch hazels and colourful stems of dogwoods and willows.
But most of all it's a month of the 3 Ps : preparation, pruning and planning!
Bulbs and tubers
- Enjoy snowdrops wherever you see them but as soon as the flowers fade you can lift crowded clumps and carefully divide them. Replant them immediately but be careful as they hate having their roots broken.
- Buy dahlia tubers and start them into growth. Pot them up in the greenhouse with a bit of heat. When new shoots appear they root easily as cuttings and it's a great way to increase your stock.
Pruning Trees, Shrubs, Climbers, etc.
- Prune Clematis for better bigger blooms! Varieties that flower after mid summer should be cut back hard but those that flower before mid summer should be more lightly pruned - i.e. back to 75cm.
- Smaller flowered types -such as Clematis montana and other species Clematis- generally only need pruning to restrict them to the space you have for them.
- It's time to prune Buddleja, Ceratostigma, Caryopteris, Perovskia, hardy Fuchsias, Lavatera and Hydrangea paniculata types hard now. They bloom on new current season's wood so don't hold back.
- If you like dramatic foliage such as Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace', Foxglove tree , golden Catalpa and Melianthus major - get pruning! Prune really hard back to get bigger bolder and more colourful leaves this summer. should be hard pruned and fed.
- Check that climbers are securely tied to their supports and check that old ties are not strangling older thicker stems. Check tree ties too and loosen them a bit if necessary. Prevent the ties slipping down both the tree and the stake by nailing the tie to the top of the stake.
- Put plenty of well rotted manure around your roses. Give them a liberal dressing of a balanced rose fertiliser too as they are hungry feeders.
- Prepare for and plant new roses and fruit trees. It’s the traditional time to plant and they will be partly established when spring arrives.
- Could your garden look better? This is the month when it is stripped to the basic skeleton by winter. It's when you can assess whether an evergreen shrub, tree or perhaps an archway, pergola or statue would improve things.
- If you have taken photos of your garden throughout the past seasons check them out and plan how you might improve things this year.
- Visit other gardens and note down what works well and could be incorporated in your own space.
Lawns, hedges, paths and drives
- Trim lawn edges with a sharp edging iron. Insert plastic or metal edging strips as support. It’s amazing what a difference a neat lawn makes to the look of a garden!
- Start to cut the lawn if required but only on dry mild days. Keep those blades high!
The Indoor Garden
- Repot your houseplants if they need it. Don't be afraid to knock the pot off and see if your plant is root bound. If so, move up just one or two pot sizes. Use good quality houseplant or multi-purpose compost.
- Taller plants might benefit from the support of moss poles.
Bedding plants, pots and borders
- Perennials and shrubs that are growing in pots should be re-potted . Use good compost and add slow release fertiliser such as Osmocote to the mix. This will feed the plants for most of the year. But if you can’t move up a pot size do remove the top and bottom couple of inches of compost and replace it with fresh.
- Winter bedding plants will benefit from liquid feed such as Miracle-Gro. Pots, window-boxes and hanging baskets filled with pansies, primroses and others will perform better if fed now.
- Sow seed of Geraniums , fibrous rooted Begonias, Antirrhinum, Lobelia, Petunias and Impatiens. Make sure you use fresh compost, clean seed trays, some heat and fresh water! Start them off on a windowsill if that's all you've got.
- Sow more sweet peas in long tube pots .