February might hold St Valentine’s Day, but the garden can still be very dreary. We’ve been out trying to find some pops of joy and colour – and just look what we found!
Of course what is now blooming in southern UK probably won’t be thrilling Caroline in the Highlands until the back-end of April, but surely she’s got SOME plants that are looking good now…?
I rather like what the wonderfully-named Joseph Wood Krutch 😳 had to say about February “Spring is too far away to comfort by anticipation, and winter long ago lost the charm of novelty. This is the very three a.m. of the calendar’. Mind you, he was writing about New England, which probably has to wait longer for signs of spring than I do here on the south coast. Here are my late winter heartwarmers:
Daphne tangutica is a fabulous winter shrub for a sheltered spot. Down here it starts flowering about now, with its deep pink buds fading to almost white, pouring out a scent on the cold air that will make your knees wobble. It’s evergreen and happy in shade too.
Hazel catkins are simple and beautiful. They always remind me of the woods we roamed as children, and their acid-green lamb’s tails stand out strikingly on the dark bare branches of a February day. Did you know that these are the male flowers? The female flowers are little vase-shaped buds with red filaments sticking out. That’s where the hazelnuts will develop if the flower is pollinated by the wind-borne pollen.
Tree peony buds. Okay so this is a bit of a cheat, but these look so lusciously fat and full of promise of the gorgeousness to come. I also adore the bullsblood red of the herbaceous peony shoots as they puncture the soil surface in February. Jam today AND jam tomorrow!
It just goes to show that you must take quotes from 19th century American natural history philosophers with a pinch of salt. If Joseph Krutch (it’s rather disappointingly pronounced “krootch” Elaine – I Googled it) had accompanied me to a delightful NGS Open Garden in Cuckfield today he would have discovered that winter had in no way lost its novelty in this corner of West Sussex.
This gem of garden created by plantswoman Shirley Carman-Martin was a treasure trove of eclectic winter rarities. Leading the field was the most stunning clematis with large, pristine-white, waxy bells, C. ‘Winter Beauty’ which certainly lived up to its name and is our featured picture at the top of the blog.
Another crowd-pleaser was Edgeworthia chrysantha, the paperbush, with amazingly pliable stems which Shirley told us were used in the production of a very durable tissue paper used for Japanese bank notes. Never say you don’t learn fascinating things in our blog!
Unusual arum leaves and ferns lit up dark corners of this beautifully-curated collection of plants (open again for the NGS, by the way, on Wednesday February 14 – details in the Yellow Book).
At ground level the undoubted stars of the show were the 225 different varieties of snowdrops. I know, I know, last week I was calling them pesky blighters but Shirley is clearly a master at managing them in a mixed border and kindly shared some tips so I left clutching a few pots of different cultivars to experiment with.
So there you have it – there IS a way to make February sing with a louder voice – you just have to put your back into it a bit!
Well frankly I don’t think ‘putting my back into it’ would have reduced the impact of 55mph winds in Scotland this week; the absolutely biblical rainfall and now the very questionable magic of snow. On the plus side, we’ve legitimately extended Christmas port-drinking!.
Salix ‘Mount Aso’ Despite the foregoing, please don’t imagine it’s all uphill in the Highlands (see what I did …) just look at how good my Salix ‘Mount Aso’ looks this week. This plant is simple-stupid to propagate – cut a bit off and stick it in a pot, even I managed it – so please don’t pay a lot for it. For a couple of quid in Tesco, (if they haven’t already killed it) its little pink pussies are moving Krutch’s 3am on at least three hours for me right now.
Hamamelis ‘Diane’ – I’m also giving a horticultural Victoria Cross to Hamamelis ‘Diane’. Like the mousy schoolfriend who becomes Miss World mine has, from nowhere, over-delivered with these wonderfully coloured frilly things – no pomp, ceremony or build-up. If you live in the south you might be lucky enough to grow those bendy-stemmed edgeworthias, but hamamelis (witchhazel) are a worthy and fabulously tough alternative up here.
Viburnum Tinus – The final accolade must go to a viburnum. It took so much effort to dig out my Viburnum tinus in the Autumn, the oohing and aaahing prompted my house guest to rush out assuming I was having a cardiac arrest. In fact both I and the viburnum survived the ordeal and here it is, in its new and more exposed location, none the worse for wear and covered in pretty pink flowers.
Be still my beating heart! (but not too still, no defibrillators here.)
We’d love to know which February plants are putting a smile on your face in your garden – let us know by posting in the comments section below!
NB Talk about plants that make you smile in February! Look at Louise’s wonderful choice for this week………
More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.
Despite the wintery blasts this last week, birds are starting to prospect for somewhere warm and cosy to raise a family. National Nestbox Week starts on Wednesday and we think this lovely silhouette nestbox has it all. Built to recommended proportions it will also add just a bit of style to your garden!
Watch as Laura puts one up in her garden, explaining two different methods of doing so.