I’ve been wondering about re-naming this monthly series of looking after your garden. I don’t want it to sound like a list of chores or something you put off doing. But I reckon if you like gardening, you’ll be in it for the joy, the satisfaction & how good it makes you feel, & you wont really mind the title?
Either way, February in the garden is a month of anticipation for the seasons ahead, sowing seeds, cutting away old growth & making ready for the new.
I’m not sure what it is about pruning, but I love it, I get a sense of being in charge. There are times when I feel it’s dictating the running order to me. Usually when I’ve been over-ambitious & sown too many seeds, & spend too much time looking after them, so pruning puts me in the driving seat.
The main reason for pruning is to give plants the best chance to produce plenty of wonderful blooms. Whilst encouraging them to be healthy & less susceptible to disease.
Of course, choosing the right time & method matters, but honestly its not always that critical. The plant may not flower that year, but you’re unlikely to kill it. Be brave & have a go, it’s the only way to learn.
Reduce those long shoots from last year, leaving just two buds. Pruning the plant keeps the size more manageable, giving it more energy to produce flowers. It’ll need a second prune in August.
These are the ones that flower in June, so they just need a light prune now.
These flower later in the year on stems that grow this year. Prune them right back now, leaving 1ft/30cm above ground. Clematis viticella are in this group, they’re a favourite for their more modest flowers, not too big & showy, & because pruning them is so straightforward.
Lift the plant out of the ground with a fork. Divide it into 2-4 clumps, depending how big the plant is. Plant each clump straightaway before it realises whats happened, then water them.
Cut off old leaves, include the stems, to allow more light to reach the flowers. Brown blotches on leaves indicate a fungal disease called hellebore spot. Cut the affected leaves off, remove any fallen leaves from the plant & get rid of them some other way & don’t put them in the compost bin.
Put off doing any of the above if the ground is frozen or rain-soaked. Pruning & planting in this kind of weather isn’t good for plants, & gardening in the rain is no fun either.
Start going through borders, removing foliage bedraggled by winter. Deciduous grasses need attention now. That straw coloured foliage from last year has looked wonderful all winter, but needs removing to let the new growth through.
Enjoy your garden this month, there’s nothing nicer than being out there on a bright winter day, lost in your own world.
All photos: Jill Anderson.