Whatever the weather, it is encouraging that spring is getting closer, with bulbs blooming and light levels & temperatures on the increase (but beware the sharp frosts that can still be expected).
Before the new season really takes off, there’s still plenty to be done. Planting of bare-rooted trees and shrubs, as well as pruning, need to be fitted in before plants come into life, but not when it’s frosty.
Cut back summer flowering clematis to healthy buds 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) above the ground.
This may seem drastic, but is essential to promote strong new growth that will produce this year’s flowers.
Cut back Winter flowering jasmine
as soon as the flowers go over. This will keep it in shape, whilst giving plenty of time for strong new shoots to develop that will produce next year’s flowers.
Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials left for winter interest or to provide seed for birds in late February or early March – leaving it too late will damage the new shoots starting to emerge.
Evergreen grasses just need tidying up, combing out any dead material.
Large flowered clematis that bloom May-June, by contrast, flower from buds already there on last year’s growth.
So limit any pruning to trimming back stem ends killed off over winter: work down each stem from the top, cutting back to just above the highest healthy bud. Any lower will be cutting off buds of this year’s flowers.
Drifts of snowdrops are the quintessential harbingers of spring. Increase them by dividing them “in the green” as the flowers fade.
It is notoriously difficult to grow them by planting bulbs.
Encourage gladioli corms to sprout by putting them in a light, warm spot (around 10°C), before you get to planting them out. This will give an earlier display.
Cut deciduous hedges, if not done already, to avoid disturbing birds that will be nesting next month.
Start stored dahlia tubers into growth
Put them in a warm, light place, barely covered with compost, to encourage them to sprout, before taking cuttings and potting up the tubers. If you don’t have a warm greenhouse or conservatory, delay this until March.
Keep misting cuttings with water using a spray bottle to stop them drying out.
Remove any reverted green shoots on hardy variegated evergreens, such as Eleagnus, otherwise the more vigorous green growth will go on to dominate the variegated foliage, eventually replacing it.
Wildlife in the garden
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