February 2020 Column

Almost out of winter, the sun rising in the sky, little bit closer to lighter evenings and the soil beginning to warm, I am chomping at the bit knowing what is around the corner. As a lover of the seasons, whilst February can be cold, dark and foreboding, I would never wish that month away. It is the final rest and recharge (for us as well as the garden) before Spring explodes into action.


Flowers and interest in the garden is diminutive and shy rewarding one with colour, scent and complexity if you go out and seek them. Hamamelis (Witch hazel), Muscari, Hellebores, crocus, and flowering Viburnums are some of my highlights. One of my favourite winter climbers is the evergreen Clematis cirrhosa ‘freckles’. I gardened in Cambridge for a plantswoman early in my 20’s and she thoughtfully had this growing up through a Hawthorn tree. They share leaf shape so it is unnoticeable in the summer months but as the tree loses its leaves, the clematis begins to flower. Delicate little freckled bell shaped flowers are only really appreciated from below so flowering up through a tree above was perfect. Using plants like this and balancing season with features has informed my gardening and arranging work.


Gathering clippings of shrubs and flower stems and displaying into single bud vases allow you to fully appreciate each exquisite piece. In the summer there is an embarrassment of riches with wild growth and we generously stuff vases full of flowers whilst in the winter we can enjoy treasures with care and attention - lifting them to Royal Garden Status.


Keep this in mind around Valentine’s Day. For me, a carefully chosen single stem or a couple of pieces of foliage and budding branches tied with a ribbon is far more thoughtful than the ubiquitous roses and bouquets shipped in. Added value can be from consulting Kate Greenaway’s ‘Language of Flowers’, the Victorians often gave each other a little posy. They called them ‘tussie-mussie’ and using floral symbolism to send a message to the recipient. Planning the planting a year in advance for a posy must be a mark of true love no?


Or if reading just this ahead of the big day, an antique terracotta pot with a single pansy represents ‘thought’ from the French word penseé. The plant can be grown on and enjoyed for weeks to come. A love token for a lover or friend which is sustainable and considered rather than extravagant and wasteful. How about collating a little posy of Snowdrops ( Hope), Winter Jasmine (meaning Grace and Elegance), Fern (fascination) and a sprig of Ivy (Fidelity and marriage), into a thoughtful romantic proposal?


And in the garden, if it is mild and dry, finish off fruit tree pruning, cut down dogwoods to 6” (welcoming brighter stems for next winter), make sure pots aren’t sitting wet and water logged. Bare root shrubs, trees and roses must be planted now. If it freezes, keep off the grass and beds entirely to prevent damage. Frost might lift plants out of the soil so refirm with your foot when thawed. If it snows, take off weighty falls off branches. Enjoy these last days of quiet before action!

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