February in the Garden

In many regions of the UK February has been a cruel month, with plenty of snow and plummeting temperatures. Here, in my area we’ve been fortunate in that it is very rare we have snow, the last significant amount being over 10 years ago.

But we did not escape heavy frosts. Walks around the garden saw many plants blackened and flattened by its onslaught and we feared we would lose many.

Despite the frosts, the crocus and snowdrops are more than happy and at present look beautiful in the front lawn in the sunshine, and filling out nicely in the pots and planters dotted around; these will be added to the front lawn once they have finished their display in the pots.

The hellebores were the worst hit but, as soon as the temperatures began to rise from -7 to +14 within two days, they soon perked up. That is one of the joys of hellebores – their resilience, from looking dead and flattened to upright and flowerheads nodding happily in the space of a few hours. Some flower buds were lost but that was all.

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I so love hellebores; can you tell?

It is amazing the changes in the garden in the space of one week, thanks to warming temperatures and increased daylight hours. Anemones and peonies are showing signs of life, the forsythia hedge showing yellow flower buds (a real sign Spring is here!), the daylilies (Hemerocallis) looking more than healthy and all the clematis and phlox in leaf bud too. Yes, it definitely looks and feels like Spring has arrived. Even the daffodils are out, as are the hyacinths, and tulips well on their way.

The warm spring weather we are experiencing during the last week of February makes me restless and itching to get out there and start planting out new plants, I have quite a selection in the greenhouse and cold frames having taken lots of cuttings last year. A walk around the garden today reveals the camellia (Camellia japonica) in flower, its buds surviving the frosts, although this did have several flowers open before Christmas! My three salvias are shooting and need trimming, but I feel it is still a little too early to begin attacking with the secateurs. I normally wait until mid March to cut back any plant rather than risk being too impatient and any frost getting to the roots. The lavender is also in need of its spring trim, again it can wait a week or two. The hybrid bluebells are shooting up too. Their leaves are much longer and wider than the native variety and always ahead in growth. I shall be doing a special post on bluebells in a few months’ time. Even the black elderberry (Sambuca niger) is in leaf bud.

The annual wallflowers are about to burst open and fill the garden with their heady scent. The beds around the drive are full of them, we can hardly wait! Several were knocked back a little by the frosts, leaves yellowed, but it doesn’t seem to have affected them and all are full of flower buds. Even the winter pansies were hit hard but have come back with many weeks of flowers to come. These, too, once finished in the planters, they will be planted out in the garden where they will continue flowering all summer.

The only plants I have lost are two everlasting wallflowers (Erysimums). One, “Sunset Apricot”, was several years old and due to turn up its toes anyway as Erysimums are short-lived perennials and only last for 3-4 years. The other, my “Bowles Mauve”, was new last year and I’m disappointed as this is usually a strong plant that flowers throughout the year. The previous summer another Bowles Mauve was plagued with some sort of disease – a powdery mildew and bud curl. This is something I’m going to have to look into as I haven’t yet established what caused this problem and I shan’t grow any more until I know the reason.

The Californian poppies are growing, in fact many have been sitting quite happily around the bird birth since last autumn, and several perennial poppies are also doing well. The bleeding heart (Dicentra) is shooting well and my hibiscus in leaf bud, so all in all, the garden is thriving.

One plant that has surprised us both is our Argyranthemum, it hasn’t stopped flowering all winter, admittedly kept in the greenhouse and now enjoying a few hours of sun on the patio, which is in shade all day at the moment from about 9:30am; that’s one of the problems with a north-facing garden but so far, it hasn’t stopped life regrowing and I believe we are in for another great show this year, from every plant. And sitting pretty next to the many cuttings we have struck from the Argyranthemum are several Osteospermums waiting to planted out, one even in flower!

Until next time, Happy Gardening.

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