February in our Gardens by Philippa Thomas.

Officially, February is the start of Spring with rising temperature and our Dawn Chorus increasing in volume.  February often flatters to deceive.  There is always the chance of a few warm days that can fool one into thinking Winter has gone and remember March then, ‘can come in like a lion’.  Presently, we might feel like taking our jacket off, then the next day, perhaps snow or heaving, almost freezing rain.  Regardless, what a bonus it is that our days are getting so much longer.  February they say, is the hungriest month for wildlife.  It pays to feed our birds, not only for the joy of seeing them but it will distract them from feasting on any bulbs and buds in our garden.  …There are now many companies that supply seed mixes labelled as “no grow, no mess”, so spilled bird seed will not grow and create a blanket of weeds below our feeders.

Late Winter can add a magical quality to our borders, especially if we have plants that catch the frost and snow.  My trooper presently, is Sarcococca, a most divine vanilla like scented shrub.  It’s hardy and retains a manageable size without having to be pruned.  It’s unaffected by either the dreaded box moth or box blight.  Some of us really need to focus on the odd cheery hue right now in our late depths of Winter.  As with our clothes we can also create in our gardens, scarlets, crimsons, pinks and burnt oranges etc.  Nandina Domestica, Heavenly Bamboo, does this magical job, I simply don’t know if it’s its freezing roots that do this magic that turns the leaves into these magnificent shades of pink etc. during Winter.  Euonymus Alatus, Burning Bush, is another exceptional ‘doer’.

Windowsills right now for many are being transformed into mini greenhouses.  …Maybe, kick-start our new 2020 with a really fresh start and make this 2020 our best year ever in our gardens.  – Perhaps, rethink a section of our gardens?  Maybe, go for colours and shapes – , bright, bold colours or calm smoky tones – , that we haven’t tried before, sculptural spikes, fragrances etc.  Then maybe, a cutting patch filled with fresh velvety jewel like colours.  What about considering growing our own delicious and highly nutritious veg. and salad?  What could be more satisfying – that pure, unbeatable taste of sheer freshness rather than some bought, limp, withered green salad.  Lettuce, Mustard, Spinach, Chervil, Claytonia – also called Miner’s Lettuce and Land Cress are all good Winter salads and have different flavours, colours and textures.  All our lives are better for even the smallest amount of grow-your-own.  Again, with the new trend of lower sugar diets, berries are a real bonus because they tend to be lower in sugar than other fruits and they make smashing smoothies.  Loganberries, Boysenberries and Tayberries are all hardy, easy to grow and utterly delicious and this month and then March are the perfect time to plant one.

So, let’s visualise, prioritise and automate our tasks and try to focus on the work that matters.  By the end of February it suddenly seems that there is a thousand and one things that can be done such as early sowing – no doubt about it, this really does give a great head start.

  1. Keep weeding.
  2. Cut back perennials.
  3. Divide perennials.
  4. Improve the soil in borders.

Really, the best way to get rid of perennial weeds is to simply dig up all the roots.  This is so easy when the weeds are young.

Might Do, Maybe February Jobs.

  1. Most house plants really hate our Winters. Early Spring offers more light and fresh air.  They respond to these small mercies with promising tender new growth.  We can now slowly remove their withered bits and start giving them sparingly, some tepid water.
  2. Don’t forget there is a huge savings on buying bare-root as opposed to pot-grown roses.
  3. Winter Jasmine, Jasminium nudiflorum, left unpruned can turn into a thicket of woody stems so make sure you cut back flowered stems after the blooms fade.
  4. Bubblewrap: Did you know that bubblewrap, which needs to be bought in a garden centre – not ‘packaging bubblewrap’, is UV stabilised and shouldn’t deteriorate as quickly when exposed to light.  Apparently, cone-shaped bubblewrap hats keep out more cold than other shapes because they trap the heat from a larger area of ground – , maybe seal their base with weights.
  5. For a real boost, sprinkle sulphate or potash around your fruit trees as far out as their branches extend. This extra injection of nutrients will improve your anticipated crop.
  6. Some people use pressure washers to remove algae, be so careful not to damage the surface of any mortar or sandy silt.
  7. Maybe, choose an interesting climber to jazz up a dull shed or an unattractive wall.
  8. New Tomato, Consuelo is a blight-resistant, outside growing tomato, full of flavour and will be available to buy around now.

Worth A Thought;

Some gardeners have the gift of creating ‘somewhere deep in the countryside’, – every inch jam packed with beauty and abundance yet in reality, it is in the middle of a main street in a town – , whatever – .

“If Winter comes: the frozen rut is bound with silver bars; the white drift heaps against the hut; and night is pierced with stars.”

Coventry Patmore.

 “Every gardener knows that under the cloak of Winter lies a miracle……… a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”

Barbara Winkler.

 “February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March.”

Dr. J. R. Stockton.