LADY PENELOPE’S GARDENING TIPS FOR FEBRUARY

Before I was a gardener, winter seemed to go on for ever, it always seemed to be raining, and the dark days went on and on. As a professional gardener and a keen home gardener, I can honestly say that actual winter does not last long enough… because I anticipate a lengthy rest from the physical demands of gardening and it just doesn’t happen! I had barely made the decision to leave my herbaceous plants uncut for wildlife, before the new growth was bursting through the dead stuff. I had barely looked at my seed catalogue before it was time to sow in earnest. The last cut of the lawn was so late in the year that it now needs mowing to begin again!!! Where’s the rest?? As regards the rain, there is probably only a handful of days’ work lost due to rain. It actually doesn’t rain that much. The daylight is already noticeably lengthening, and it is still only February. So, no rest for gardeners.
With that in mind, here are some timely reminders. Finish pruning wisterias back to 2/3 buds; prune winter flowering shrubs as soon as they have finished e.g. Ribes, Forsythia; move and replant deciduous trees and shrubs to a better position; renovate overgrown hedges (very satisfying!); cut back deciduous grasses as the new growth is already coming through and remove dead grass from clumps of evergreen grasses; remove leaves from Hellebores to show off the wonderful flowers; sow sweet peas outside in pots, hardy annuals and some early vegetables (I always start my tomatoes off indoors about now). A handy tip I read and retained was to always cut back Clematis on Valentines Day (Clematis that flower from June onwards only, not the spring flowering ones or you will lose all your flowers!).
Pest of the month: It’s slugs and snails time again. Be vigilant around seedlings and emerging herbaceous such as delphiniums. You can do night searches with a torch to find them, or lay traps such as citrus fruit skins upturned or cups of beer, or else use a Ferric Phosphate based slug control that is approved by organic growers (e.g. Bayer Garden Slug Killer).
Design tip of the month: It may have become apparent through my previous writings that I am an avid recycler (see broken cups, mosaics, sea shells etc). I am very keen to find a home for our used plastic plant pots from the Lady P premises so please, if you or someone you know can use them, please call me (01403 820321). Similarly, can anyone use shredded paper for animal bedding? Again, please call me. On the theme of recycling, look around your garden and home and see what novel apparatus can be used to plant up, to add variety to your gardens. Old sinks are a popular idea, as are baths or holey wheelbarrows, but also consider chamber pots, wash stands, umbrella stands etc. These would all fit nicely with the current trend for anything vintage.

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