Signs of Spring in the Garden
At first glance it doesn’t look like there’s much going on in my garden in February, but if I take the time to have a closer look, there are exciting signs of life stirring as the days get longer. I love to get wrapped up and, clutching a steamy hot cup of tea, have a wander around the garden at this time of year. January has passed and that always feels like something of a milestone to have reached. The sun is sitting higher in the sky and it’s now starting to creep back into parts of the garden where it doesn’t reach for two months of the year.
Wonderful flowers are emerging
There are clumps of snowdrops with their nodding, white blooms and the wonderful flowers of spotted with burgundy and others are a deep smoky purple colour. Cyclamen coum are emerging underneath the birch tree and there are the pale yellow flowers of primroses. The tiny white flowers of the evergreen shrub Christmas box (Sarcococca) pump out their heady fragrance.
The first signs of buds
But it’s not just about those plants that are doing their thing now, it’s also about spotting signs of buds swelling and shoots erupting from the ground, all of which hint at what’s to come. The ornamental quince, which I’ve trained against the fence, has fat flower buds developing along its bare branches. I can see new growth in the crown of plants such as hardy geraniums and nepeta, and new foliage is appearing on the ornamental grasses.
The slender, strappy leaves of crocus bulbs are now starting to show, as are the shoots of daffodils and pulmonaria, a lovely herbaceous perennial whose early spring flowers are particularly attractive to bees emerging after their winter hibernation.
Cut back dead foliage
To make the most of these plants, it’s a good idea to cut back any soggy, dead foliage that might be covering a clump of bulbs or that has flopped over a neighbouring perennial. Leaving top growth in place over winter protects plants from the cold weather and provides places for insects to shelter, but there comes a point when it might be getting in the way of other plants. Gradually pruning back stems and leaves over the coming weeks will allow for views of dainty spring plants and open up plants so that new growth can emerge.
Build a ‘dead hedge’ for small mammals, birds, and insects
Use any woody prunings to make a ‘dead hedge’ near your compost heap. A dead hedge is simply a collection of stems and branches that you add to over time. Insert upright posts or bamboo canes about 1.2m in length into the soil to form two parallel rows – the opposite posts should be about 15-25cm apart. Then stuff the space to form a hedge of branches and twigs, and as the bottom prunings gradually rot and sink down you can add more to the top. It might not be especially attractive (that’s why it’s a good idea to put it in a tucked away corner), but it provides a wonderful habitat for small mammals, birds and insects.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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