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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End of April View 2016

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At last, the bare earth is quickly disappearing under an array of foliage: mainly of bulbs, but also delphiniums, hydrangeas, penstemons, oriental poppies, foxgloves and snapdragons, all greening up and preparing for a summer’s flowering; and by flowers that have already in bloom: drumstick primulas, aubretia, bergenia, forget-me-nots, tulips, narcissi, Muscari, hyacinths, honesty, the list goes on. This pleasant stage of spring seems to have been a long time coming, and the garden was set back somewhat by two weeks of snow, hail and overnight frosts, as I’m sure many of yours were too. The main victims have been my seedlings, some of which got waterlogged. But things are looking up. The sun is back. We achieved 14 degrees today. I may even have enough flowers to sacrifice for a Vase on Monday this week.

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At the head of this large border is my usual collection of plants that I have recently acquired and are waiting to be planted. A white dicentra is destined for the shaded area at the back that is shaded in summer by the trees. A blue Anemone blanda will go in this area too, where I am hoping it will spread happily around. I have two Aquilegias that are for the middle of the bed, replacing the Bergenia ‘Eroica’ that I am intending to move to the new back garden beds. The colour of ‘Eroica’ is too bright here and would suit the back garden much better. I also think this of the ‘Toronto’ tulips, lovely though they are. My plan for 2016 is to consolidate the (loose) colour scheme for the front garden, keeping it low key in whites, purples, blues, yellows and apricots.

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My hostas are coming up at last. Well, two of them are, ‘Devon Green’ and an unknown variety I found in a pot when we bought the flat. There is worryingly no sign of ‘Patriot’ yet, and I am hoping it hasn’t been gobbled by subterranean slugs. Something keeps gobbling my tulips too – snapping whole buds off the stems and destroying them, as if to eat the insides. Who is this vandal? A bird? A mouse? A cat? How can I prevent this? Any advice would be gratefully received!

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I am looking forward to the Morello cherry blossom, which should be out this week, given the forecast for sunshine and warmth. The pear tree in the back garden has already blossomed, and I am quite glad that I have inadvertently bought two trees that blossom at different times. Up by the bench I have two large pots of bulbs, both looking fabulous now, but I am already thinking hard as to what to do with them once the tulips, Muscari, hyacinths and narcissi are over. In fact I have several pots that require attention if I am to have lovely summer blooms from them in a month or two. And with next week off work, I shall have plenty of time to figure it out.

End of month view is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener.

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Narcissi ‘Winston Churchill’
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Muscari armeniacum
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Honesty
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William pear blossom
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Muscari armeniacum, Hyacinthus ‘Woodstock’,  Tulipa ‘Golden Apeldoorn’, and a white tulip variety unknown. I love the combination of the white and yellow tulips, but am not convinced these hyacinths are in the right place.
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Narcissi ‘Cheerfulness’, Hyacinthus ‘Blue Pearl’, Tulipa ‘Tres Chic’ in the large pot, and T. ‘Peach Blossom’ in the smaller pots at the front.
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Bergenia ‘Eroica’
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Muscari botryoides ‘Album’ and unknown tulips.
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Erythronium, either ‘Purple King’ or ‘Joanna’. I should really have separated them much more as ‘Joanna’ is quite rare and I need to avoid getting them mixed up. The ‘Purple King’ wasn’t as purple as it should have been, and ‘Joanna’ wasn’t as apricot as it should have been, and although I know which is which geographically in the garden (I think), I can’t remember which this is a photo of.
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Tulipa ‘Toronto’. Too bright for me, I think every year. Then it does this and I forgive it.
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Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’

 

End of month view: May 2015

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May 31st 2015
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May 31st 2015

If anyone in Edinburgh didn’t complain about the cold, wet weather of May, it was the owner of a new garden of entirely new plants, whose undeveloped root systems were happy not to cope with warmth and dryness quite yet. What the plants didn’t appreciate this month, however, was the wind. It’s a breezy little manor, this front garden, situated as it is on a North-to-South street, and the gales whip up against the tall buildings and beat back down upon the front gardens like nobody’s business. I can look out at the back green behind the tenement, calm as a monastery, then cross over and look out to the front and see my tulips and daisies practically flattened by insane, punishing winds.

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May 3st 2015
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Same view: April 2015

This month brought big changes, from a newly painted shed and bench, new plants, and welcome (if late) blooms. Here are the same views from April. You’ll see that the very attractive rusting incinerator is still in pride of place. Perhaps it will have found a new home by June’s end of month view; we’ll see.

You’ll see from my pictures that the garden is a hotch-potch of experiments. I have been buying whichever plants I like the look of, either that I have admired on other people’s blogs, or have read about in my collection of gardening books, or seen blooming nicely in my neighbours’ front gardens or in the garden centre. Still not quite au fait with the garden itself, its habits of sun and shade, of soil type and drainage, wind direction and so forth, I am working under the expensive but interesting principle of throwing plants in and seeing what sticks. Later this month I’ll write a post specifically on the successes and failures to date. Once it becomes apparent which plants are doing happily, I’ll divide and spread those so that the garden is full of a narrower selection of lush, healthy plants. At the same time I’ll dig out and remove the ones that haven’t done well, whether because of the wind or the shade, or because (like the rather leggy, ragworty daisies just visible in the pictures) I simply haven’t taken a shine to them.

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Late Tulipa ‘Menton’, with newly painted bench behind.

The most dramatic blooms came from my long-awaited, enormous, apricot pink late ‘Menton’ tulips. They exceeded my very high expectations and I cannot recommend these beauties enough, especially if you want to extend your tulip season to May — or even, if you live in the North, into June. If you’re interested in why this tulip is named Menton, just Google for images of the beautiful apricot pink town of Menton, France, and you’ll see.

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Late Tulipa ‘Menton’

The three alliums that I bought at Bodnant in March have done well, and I hope they will self-seed and spread a bit. Now that I know they do all right here, I will certainly increase these next year as they provide important height before the foxgloves kick in.

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Allium

And can anyone else claim to have alliums blooming alongside narcissi? These narcissi I rescued from a tub I had created last year and replanted in January along with the tulips.

IMG_0069The hostas have been attacked by that aforementioned vicious predator, the wind, so while they remain virgin of slug nibbles, I am sorry to see that the beautiful leaves have been ripped mercilessly in several places.

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Hosta ‘Devon Green’
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Hosta ‘Patriot’
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Surprise hosta

This green and yellow hosta was a lovely surprise. The only reason I hadn’t turned out and reused this clay pot of unpromising bare soil, which had been left in the garden by the previous occupier, was that it was acting as a weight on the bottom shelf of the cold frame. Then I noticed unexpected shoots poking through, hastily bought it out and watered it, and shortly appeared the gift of this little hosta. I shall try to divide and repot it at some point.

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Ajuga reptans
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Heuchera
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Heuchera
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Fern

Elsewhere, we have Ajuga reptans, two lovely new heucheras (I couldn’t decide on the colour so bought both), and this gorgeous new fern, which I thought contrasted beautifully with the faun-brown of the shed. I’ve gone through my bag of labels but I fear the labels for these latter three are in a pot in the cold frame so I’ll fill their names in when I’ve retrieved them.

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Regrowing privet hedge

The hedge is growing back, thankfully, vindicating its heavy pruning; the Brazilian had been saying ‘You’ve gone and killed it’ for weeks, till now.

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Potatoes in collapsible growers. The wind has split and torn their leaves.

The potatoes are doing fine in their collapsible potato growers. I’ve had mixed feelings about these growers, finding that non-rigid sides are possibly detrimental to watering and plant stability, although doubtless I’ll appreciate them more when it’s time to fold them up and stow them for the winter. Also, I’ve diverted the large rigid planters I used last year to different purposes, namely to repot the pear tree I haven’t had time to plant out, and the rose (David Austin’s climbing Tess of the D’Urbevilles) which the builders promised most fervently to kill should they find it still in place when they come to put in our French door.

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Seedlings, out of the coldframe at last

Finally, here are the seedlings I sowed this winter/spring, enjoying their first few days out of the cold frame. (They had to go hastily back inside this week, as early June night temperatures dipped back down to four or five degrees). We have delphiniums, penstemon, aubretia, white cosmos, and a clematis cutting that I did not expect to survive the winter, or the snail attacks, in our rented back garden. Not in the picture is my single experimental dahlia, ‘Cafe au lait’, and two honeysuckles, Serotina and Tellmann’s, rescued from a Morrison’s sale shelf, 99p each and in utter, hopeless despair after a long, sunless in-store sojourn. In fact, they looked about as happy as I do after time spent in a supermarket. Needless to say they’ve bounced back after a week or two outside in the garden.

June will bring a few challenges. The Brazilian took me to the flat last night and proudly displayed the bathroom, which now has not only no basin, lavatory or bath, but no flippin’ floor, before taking me into the kitchen, whose sink has gone the same way. ‘How am I going to water the plants?’ I wailed. I must be the only person scanning the weather forecast in hopes of rain rather than sun. I foresee trips to the flat in the car with buckets, jugs, cans and tubs of water.

End of month view is hosted by Helen at the Patient Gardener.

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