February Gardening Tips from Linda Forrester in Great Shefford
We might still be hunkering down in front of a roaring fire but if you look around our gardens you will find that spring has already made an appearance.
The once bare soil is now brightened by the appearance of snowdrops, hellebores, aconites and crocuses with the early daffodils not far behind.
All this encourages us to get out and prepare our gardens for the year to come.
An important job to do this month is pruning.
Pruning Roses & Shrubs
We are a nation of rose growers and most gardens have at least one rose bush so I will start with roses. The best time to prune bush roses is immediately after winter has ended. This is not easy to forecast with our unpredictable climate but is most likely at the end of February or early March.
Make a start on bush roses by cutting out all the dead wood and any weak growth. Old exhausted stems can then be removed at the base to make way for new growth. The remaining stems can then be cut back to 4-5 inches ensuring the cut is clean and sloping. Each rose can then be given some compost or well rotted manure to give them a good start.
February is also the month to prune those shrubs that flower in the second half of the year. These include buddleia, hydrangea, wisteria, dogwoods, winter jasmine and spiraea japonica. Buddleia are very vigorous and need drastic pruning. Cut out any dead or weak stems at ground level. Then cut back the rest of the stems to just two pairs of buds on each one.
On wisteria you will need to tie in the new stems and then cut back to two buds any new growth from the main stems.
Dogwoods are grown primarily for their brightly coloured stems which are brighter on new shoots.
So you can cut out a third of the stems to within 3 inches of the ground to encourage new growth.
Again, pruned shrubs will benefit from a mulch and a balanced fertiliser to get them off to a good start.
I have left my dahlias in the ground over the winter without losing any thus far. But if you have stored your tubers now is the time to start them off again. They can be potted up singly or you can put several altogether in a large tray. Place them in good light in a frost free place and spray them periodically with water.
Lilies can be planted out now for summer flowering either straight into a border or into a pot. Unlike most bulbs, lilies do not have an outside protective layer to protect them from drying out or to keep them disease free during their dormant season. Instead lilies have fleshy scales which can become damaged if stored for too long. When planting lilies, the bulbs should be placed on their side to prevent water collecting in between the scales which can cause them to rot.
All in all they are easy to grow and make excellent cut flowers although you may wish to cut off the pollen covered stamens to prevent accidental staining if you do bring them indoors. Tall varieties such as Regale Album are perfect for the back of a border and this variety has a lovely perfume from pure white trumpet shaped flowers with yellow stamens. If you want a bright splash of colour another tall lily is African Queen which is a fabulous burnt orange colour and again has a lovely perfume. Short stemmed lilies are better for pots or the front of a border. A particular favourite is Lily Lollipop which has creamy flowers edged with pinky red and has dark green spiky foliage.