In The Garden: February

With this month’s warm and balmy temperatures, the garden has begun its slow explosion into green, starting of course with the snowdrops and dwarf irises, while narcissi and tulips line themselves up to begin their show next month. So, what is looking good in the garden this month?

Looking Good

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Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ in a vintage clay pot has come out to see the February sun.

 

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A surprise of crocuses, which I did not plant! I imagine they must have self-seeded from our nearby park, which is absolutely thick with the most beautiful displays.
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Helleborus argutifolus. I adore these subtle shades of lime and the soft rounded texture of the sepals.
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I planted a handful of ‘borrowed’ bulbs from our rented garden in 2015, and last year I divided and spread the clumps, so now this year at last the garden is starting to fill up. Nothing in the garden gives me greater joy to see at this time of year. I am not a galanthophile by any means: I am happy with old faithful G. nivalis. Perhaps one day I will splurge on some different varieties, but right now, these simple flowers couldn’t be making me happier.
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Electric blue Iris ‘Clairette’ saved over from last year’s pots.
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Another spring favourite of mine just coming into bloom. I have a white and a baby blue variety somewhere in the front garden and am awaiting their appearance with anticipation and hope.
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An enormous primrose taken as a seedling from my grandmother’s garden. It needs splitting.
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I am delighted to have spotted my first Anemone blanda, which I planted in autumn 2016 under the cherry tree.
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Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ making a surprise appearance at the back of the back garden. I ought to move these nearer the house as they were almost over by the time I spotted them in the distance through the rain-spattered window.

Jobs

  1. This is the month for sorting and sowing seeds. I stocked up on coir pellets (which I am using for the first time as an experiment) and washed out my seed trays and root trainers to ensure they were fresh and clean of any dirt that could have harboured disease from last year. I sorted my seeds into those that needed planting right away (sweet peas, Calendula, Cerinthe, Aquilegia, Nigella, Antirrhinum), those that could wait a month, and those that needed direct sowing. I had lots left over, which I packaged up to send to friends.
  2. It was a good month for mulching the beds with some left over horse manure, as well as some seaweed that I picked up on our recent walk on Tyninghame beach. I try to collect seaweed whenever I go to the beach (always the loose, dead stuff) as it is so wonderful to spread on the garden or to add to compost.
  3. Early spring is the time for pruning hydrangeas, clematis in groups 2 and 3, and certain other woody shrubs that flower later in the year. img_1902
  4. February is the last opportunity for clipping hedges before bird nesting season begins, after which it is necessary to wait until late July. Last year I had sparrows nesting in our privet hedge, so I took to them with hand shears instead of electric.
  5. Each year I grow a different variety of new potato in reusable deep sacks. I find it deeply satisfying earthing them up, watering them, and then tipping the bag out and finding all the new potatoes among the dark earth, even though our local greengrocer sells delicious new potatoes for far cheaper than I could ever manage to produce them. February is the time to ‘chit’ potatoes so I put mine in egg boxes by our french doors, where it is bright but not too warm.img_1901
  6. A general tidy-up was a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, cutting back all the dead stalks and foliage for the compost heap to allow new growth to come through.
  7. Dividing perennials can begin this month if the ground isn’t frozen. I have my eye on a Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, some Bergenias and a Christmas rose that I would like to split so that I can increase my stock.

February Garden View

At last the front garden is beginning to green over with the fat shoots of bulbs growing in thick clumps all over the beds. Snowdrops are spreading beneath the roses and in small corners.

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The back garden too is changing: no snowdrops here, though I plan to spread some to this garden as soon as possible. However, many bulbs planted both this autumn and the previous one are making bold appearances.

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So that is it for February, a joyful month in the garden as spring begins to break through and cheer us all up after a long winter. I am now thoroughly looking forward to March, when the first species tulips and narcissi will be bringing even more colour to the garden. What have you been enjoying about your garden in February, and what are you looking forward to seeing in March?

Finally, can you see a face in the photo below?

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In the Garden: November

November has been kind to Edinburgers. We’ve had plenty of blue skies, no winds, and several days of good hard frost to zap the molluscs, as well as some rain to keep the soil moist. As autumn slips uncertainly into winter, every day has brought new sights through the window: golden trees that gradually defoliate to become stark against the bright clear sky, a lawn of blue-white frozen grass, the emergence of the first tiny Helleborus niger buds, and that most satisfying of things, a steady gathering of terracotta pots freshly planted with bulbs and top-dressed with grit.


Looking Good in November

It would be easy to say, ‘not much’, for the dahlias have blackened and gone, the roses pruned back, the sweetpeas and salvias have been thoroughly frosted, and even the Cyclamen hederifolium that have been cheering the area beneath the cherry tree are beginning to tire, though there are another few weeks in them yet. Yet I still feel a great deal of satisfaction when I look out of the window at both front and back gardens. All of the annuals have been cleared out of the beds, the edges cut, and the bulbs planted, leaving the ground neat and tidy for winter. My pots are neatly top-dressed, and indeed labelled (a first for me!), and arranged tidily around the edges. The garden is not pretty, but it is under control, with a great deal to look forward to as the first bulbs emerge.

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Gardening jobs for November

1) November is the month in which I plant tulip bulbs. We have usually had a frost to help wipe out tulip disease by this time. It is also not too late to plant any other bulbs that were not planted during October, especially those that flower later in spring, such as alliums and late narcissi.

2) After November’s first frost, the time is ripe to attend to dahlias. I wait until the leaves have blackened and the frost has sent them into dormancy. Those to be overwintered I then mulch heavily to protect against wet and cold. This year I am going to experiment with a layer of shredded paper that will be covered over with home-made compost. Those that need lifting (if, for example I wish to reposition them for next year), will be hung upside down for a couple of weeks and then stored in our cold back corridor in bags of dry material such as sawdust, shredded paper or dry compost.

3) I have just spotted the first buds of my Christmas rose, the beautiful and delicate Helleborus niger. Tomorrow I will carefully cut back the hellebore’s old foliage to prevent black leaf spot and allow the white flowers to shine through.

4) We had our first hard frost last week, so I made sure to lag taps and waterpipesĀ with fleece, bubble wrap or polystyrene caps, and disconnect and empty the hosepipes.

5) November is the month in which I prune roses for winter. I shorten stems by about a third to the first outward facing bud to prevent windrock, and cut back and tie in my climbing roses too.

6) In October, I emptied my leaf-mould bin and spread the delicious, crumbly leaf mould around my cyclamen and hellebores. With November’s huge leaf-drop both in our back green and on our tree-lined street, I was able to refill the leaf-mould bin with fallen leaves.

7) Although the garden is now empty of flowers, November is a perfect time to get out and go foraging for all the best that autumn has to offer: acorns, pine cones, mossy sticks and berry-laden branches make beautiful indoor decorations. I collect seedheads from the garden too, but always leave some in situ for overwintering insects.

8) November is a good time to cover or store garden furniture. I have put mine in the back passageway, where it will stay dry and frost-free until the first warm days of next spring.


An embarrassment of containers

My annual over-enthusiasm in ordering bulbs left me short of pots and containers in which to plant them, once again. Thus I was on the lookout for pots, or any suitable containers I could convert. While staying with my parents last month, I found two old wooden crates, which my father said I might take away with me. To convert them into well-draining tubs, I drilled several holes in the bottom of them, then lined them with old pet-feed sacks in which I had made cuts for drainage. Each one was able to hold over 30 bulbs.

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Then I found these on eBay…

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…a haul of over 40 vintage terracotta pots, some bearing the famous ‘Sankey’ marque (and others looking suspiciously like B&Q’s finest).

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The haul included a large and slightly wobbly terracotta urn.

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I also planted a good many tulip bulbs in the ground around both gardens.

Finally, here are some views of both gardens back and front:

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The back garden, with furniture cleared away for the winter, edges cut, tender perennials moved closer to the house, and sweetpeas left in situ to shelter the Salvia ‘Amistad’ from the worst of the frosts. Christmas tree is inching its way towards the house…

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And here follows the front garden, with pots, tubs and window boxes planted up with bulbs, the latter to replace the ones still bursting with erigeron and apple mint once they become exhausted.

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