Well February’s here and of course it is the usual maddening weather where it’s too cold or too wet or too something to be able to get on as one is itching to do.
Here at the garden is no exception and we huddle in corners comparing notes on how far we got the last time the soil wasn’t like concrete or treacle and doing seed swaps so that we can have as many cheery annuals as possible in different parts of the garden.
However, there are things we all can do in February. This is the perfect time of year to do any bare root planting. By this I mean a plant that has quite literally been dug up from the ground rather than gown in a container. Bare root plants for sale are generally things like roses, shrubs and trees.
One tree I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t come across before I worked at Kew Gardens was Amelanchier canadensis or the Juneberry tree. From North America, it’s a lovely hardy tree growing to around 6-7 metres or fifteen to eighteen feet in old money. With beautiful white spring flowers, reddish-purple berries in summer and beautiful orangey-red foliage in autumn it earns its place in the garden. It can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub and kept smaller, either way it fits nicely into the smaller garden.
Spare a thought for the wildlife in your garden. We leave plenty of our tough-stemmed plants standing over winter. If we have to cut stuff down we leave a certain amount as this is prize ladybird hibernation territory. Some stuff will look a bit sad but if you can bear it, please leave it. However, if you have plants that have collapsed and turned to a nasty slime, then remove it to your compost bin toute de suite. Plants hate rotting material on their crown and it is also a major winter resort for slugs so it’s best to take it away.
If you’re lucky enough to have apricot, peach or nectarine trees then cover the blossom as it comes out to protect it from frost. The old-fashioned way was to weave a blanket out of corn and barley stalks and they do look wonderful. But you need either a lot of gardeners or a lot of time to weave the blankets and put them on of a night but also raise them in the morning so the trees get the light. Much more practical these days to get some horticultural fleece to do the job.
Lastly, do feed the birds. They are our best defence against the bugs and beasts we don’t want like greenfly, slugs and snails. Nuts, seeds and fat balls will all be gratefully received in this weather. I have some of the biggest, fattest blackbirds in my garden at home who I think hit the seeds before they ate all the snails. I’m not complaining, always happy to help a blackbird and clear up the snail shells afterwards. Happy gardening.
Tricia Harris February 2019