ďAs the days grow longer the cold grows strongerĒ so the old sages used to say, and how true.
Although the spring bulbs and many perennials are peeking through, and buds are appearing on shrubs, January has shown us that winter is still here. Weíve had warm sunny days, mild nights, floods, severe frosts and, as I write, 4 inches of snow. How the plants cope amazes me!
The strong growth on the bulbs that have poked through indicates an early burst of colour this spring, but sadly many plants have been scorched by recent frosts. The trouble was, of course, that everything was so soft following the very mild autumn and winter - Roses and Fuchsias flowering in December?!! Usually cutting back on a mild day will promote new growth but I fear some may not survive.
Isnít it heartening to see the Aconites and Snowdrops telling us another great gardening year has started. Prunus Autumnalis - the winter flowering Cherry has been blooming since November - what a wonderful tree it is. The Winter Jasmine has looked great this year and the Mahonia is now taking over with its sweet smelling yellow blooms. We can achieve colour and interest all year in the garden with the right choice of plants, just look at the wonderful winter Pansies laid low by frost, and bouncing back to add bursts of colour to our baskets, borders and containers - donít forget to keep dead-heading them, and, as it warms up, look out for mildew and aphids.
We are fortunate that our Nursery has the contract to distribute all the tree and hedge packs for Cambridgeshire County Council, and we are currently busy packing the thousands of young plants that will brighten our countryside in the future. Iím a great fan of hedges, they look better than fences, donít need painting, donít blow over and can be great security. You wouldnít see an opportunist burglar get through a hedge of Rosa Rugosa or Berberis.
Itís a very good time to plant bare-root or field-grown plants. These are, as the name suggests, grown in fields with no pot or rootball, and can be lifted and planted whilst dormant between November and March. Hedge plants, roses and fruit, ornamental or flowering trees are all available in this form and are usually cheaper than pot grown specimens - send for our catalogues!
The weather during February can still vary between hard frost and snow and dry, mild, sunny days, with everything else in between! Make the most of any gardening time you have - tidy up - in the greenhouse, in the shed and when the weather is suitable, finish any pruning and clear borders of weeds and leaves, but remember, any diseased material from last year will be quietly spreading spores again this year - remove it! Pick fallen branches and twigs from lawns before they damage your mower blades, and get the mower checked over - before the day you need it!
I give you my gardening thoughts each month, but if you have any comments, ideas to share, or questions - not too hard please! - then let me know and we can have a great monthly chat.
Have a Happy Gardening Year.