I had a lovely walk in January across the beach from Carne to Pendower at low tide and in much awaited sunshine. I don’t get down there often enough and feel I don’t have the excuse now without dogs to walk. But I really enjoyed it and the daffodils around the car park were in full flower and shining gloriously in the sunshine. I also have native primroses in flower in the garden and the mild weather has brought on camellias much earlier than the last two cold winters. The clematis armandii is in fat bud ready to burst out and I still have campanulas flowering in the raised beds from last season – what good value they have been, flowering from April to February so far, just for the sake of one lot of dead heading.
There is within most of us a tendency to complain about the weather and frankly if your garage or house has filled with water then that is understandable. But I also keep a rough diary, with my weather station, and last year I was bemoaning the long run of torrential rain and floods but this year here we are with the summer’s marguerites still in flower on the patio, the herbaceous plants growing away very quickly and real feelings of spring just around the corner. The red pyracantha was still covered in beautifully bright berries until my friend Mr Blackbird found them – still he has enjoyed them thoroughly. He will start on the yellow ones now he has finished his favourites. So yes, there are signs of spring around already and I hope that I haven’t tempted fate by mentioning that. February is often the worst month of the year.
So where are we with the gardening? Hopefully looking at spells of drier weather, a light breeze to help dry off the surface and then I have to finish some tidying that didn’t get done in the autumn. All the trimmings go on the compost heap, partly to provide compost but also because there are little bugs and creatures that have made the herbaceous plants their home for the winter.
All the jobs that follow are dependent on the weather, if we are blanketed in snow or ice. Just hold off until the weather is conducive:-
- Prune clematis that flower after June now, to about 12 cms above ground level. If you leave them they will be leggy and flower only at the top.
- Cut out dead stems of ceratostigma, I also prune about 4cms off the flowering stems too to keep the shrub in shape.
- Lift and divide congested border plants; they will thank you for it. Pay attention to the ice plant, sedum spectabile. Every so often they elongate and sag. Cut off the long ends, dig up and divide the plant and re-plant to produce a compact growth in the autumn.
- Plant lily bulbs in the ground or in pots.
- Trim winter flowering heathers so that they maintain a compact tidy growth.
- Sprinkle potash fertiliser around fruit trees to give them a boost as they start to grow.
- This is your last chance to prune a grape vine, taking off the spurs that fruited last year and tying in new shoots with two spurs. If you leave it too late it will bleed.
- Cover veg beds where practical with cloches or polythene to warm up the soil.
- Put well- rotted manure around rose and shrubs (I prune my roses in February too, as long as it isn’t too cold. They seem to have grown too much if I leave it until March.)
- Plant new raspberry and blackberry canes – autumn raspberries, which fruit in August here, are the easiest as they only require cutting to the floor. There is no requirement to identify new and old canes.
- Check your mower and get it serviced now, ready for the season – we are mowing lightly already where grass has dried out.
- Prepare new potatoes for chitting.
- Mulch shrubs to keep the moisture in the ground – we may need it if the weather gives us as long a dry spell as we have had wet! Just imagine that!
- Clean the greenhouse and start sowing geranium seeds and osteospermum. I get the begonias going now too as they like a longer growing time.
- There is still plenty of time to sow broad bean seeds in pots for growing on.
- Now, if that is not enough to do you must have too much time on your hands! There will be plenty of weeding to do either by hand or with a hoe if the soil is ok. Time invested now will reap rewards especially with pernicious perennial weeds which have shown their heads early this year.
- You can still buy bare root hedging and trees until mid- March. Much cheaper than potted specimens.
My summer pots are planned, marguerites and eucomis only, my life is now petunia and lobelia free. All the borders will be chock full of herbaceous perennials. I am not prepared to spend another summer trying to keep summer bedding dead headed and wind proofed. I have better things to do with my time and the perennials once bought are there forever.
Spring is definitely around the corner, the days are now visibly lengthening and life is looking pretty good out there, isn’t it?