It’s the time of year when our green spaces begin bursting into life and Head Gardener Imogen is here to help you embrace many a winter growing opportunity.
February is always exciting in the garden; spring is just around the corner and the energy is palpable if you take the time to notice. You can see bulbs and fresh buds appearing and swelling everywhere and the days have become noticeably longer. Birds are beginning to mark their territory ready for the mating season, and if the weather is mild frogs and toads will be mating overnight and producing masses of spawn. The weather is difficult to predict, and becoming more so every year, but it is likely to be cold and probably wet, so wrap up warm and get outside to see what you can see, hear and feel!
Chillies can be sown in February, as they need a long growing season. With most other seeds, be patient! There is no rush and seeds grow much faster in the warm soil, plus many will be killed off if there is a frost. In the latter part of the month, you can sow seeds of hardy plants (ones that won’t be killed by a frost) including broad beans, lettuce, calabrese, spring onions, radish, early hearting cabbage, dill, parsley, and peas for pods. Late in February you can sow Boltardy Beetroot. These can all be sown in plastic trays on your windowsill or in a greenhouse ready to plant out next month. Coriander and peas for shoots can be grown in pots on your windowsill to harvest and eat from there.
At the end of the month, unless it is still very wintery, we will prune our summer flowering Clematis ‘Durandii’. Until then it is full of hibernating ladybirds which are an essential part of the organic gardener’s armoury – ready to help fend off the aphids at the start of the year, eating about 50 a day each. Later in the year their larvae will be voracious aphid feeders, eating their own weight in aphids every day. Any summer flowering clematis can be pruned to about 30cm above ground level, above a pair of healthy buds before they start to shoot afresh in spring. Do check what type of clematis you have before pruning – if it flowers in the spring, don’t prune now or you won’t get any flowers! If it is a ‘group 2’ clematis – which means it has large flowers around midsummer – it only needs a light prune. Check your label, or check your photos from last year.
Likewise, we will prune ornamental grasses at the same time. These are another fabulous place for overwintering insects, but once the ground starts to warm up, the insects wake up and move on, and before fresh growth appears these can be cut to the ground. Here we have Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ which have looked amazing throughout the winter, adding beautiful tinges of orange to the border, and lots of lovely whispery sound and wavy motion in the wind.
Wisteria, winter jasmine, cornus, climbing and bush roses can all be pruned also. Here at Horatio’s Garden, we also have lots of Sedum matrona, which I cut back in February, again having allowed the flower heads to stay on throughout winter providing interest and structure to the borders.
Other jobs include:
Make the most of any dry days to get outside when you can; it will really help to beat the winter blues and if you are stuck indoors, get planning for what you will grow later in the year.
As the old saying goes, hope springs eternal!