Chris Beardshaw's garden tips for February
PUBLISHED: 14:51 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 February 2013
Before setting off on tour with Gardener's Question Time, our gardening guru has some tips on what to do in the garden during February
At a time of year when the vast majority of our gardens are starved of flamboyant flower colour there are just a few plants that work hard to convince you that the joys of spring are just around the corner. If you have a sheltered area of garden, particularly south or west facing wall or bed, and are looking for a new introduction to your garden this month then plant the Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata, a native to South East Australia and Tasmania.
This feathery leaved plant can reach tree proportions but here in the UK it is best suited to training loosely against a wall or fence which offers a little protection from cold winds. In addition to the decorative leaves, from which the common name is derived, it produces an unrivalled display of vivid, golden-yellow, furry pom-poms, massed on slender grey shoots. Even immature plants become such a riot of colour that the foliage and stems are concealed for up to two months. As well as providing cheery blooms, it emits a sweet fragrance that attracts not just gardeners but also early pollinating insects from miles around.
Plants that start their growing or flowering in the first few weeks of the growing year are pitting themselves against the icy cold and frost that so often damage our early blooms. Young shoots and flowers are particularly vulnerable to frosting so when inclement weather is forecast wrap the plants in horticultural fleece. This should be left on only while the conditions are unfavourable (such as during a night of frosty wind) then removed in the morning to allow growth to continue. Never improvise with polythene as this causes the plants to sweat and can exacerbate the frosting.
Regarded as one of the most addictive and potent aphrodisiacs, this small fungus is found growing on the roots of trees just below the soil. Shavings of the fresh truffles are used widely on food in the Mediterranean where the finest musky-flavoured crops are found. However, it is possible to cultivate crops in the UK by planting tree species specially treated with the fungi. Most successful are Hazel, Oak and Chestnut - but be patient as crops can take up to five years to mature.
Making Your Blooms Last
Enhance the flowering of cut roses by pushing a fine needle through the stem immediately behind the bloom. This allows any air in the stem to escape and avoids the rather embarrassing problem of blooms going limp before they have been admired. If your gift is of cut tulips, remember to trim the stems and turn the vase daily as their stems continue to grow and blooms will strain towards the light. When it comes to watering, refresh vases daily. Research shows that water temperature affects the length of flowering so use cold water for spring flowering blooms such as Tulips and Daffodils, but warm water for summer plants like Roses and Lilies.
Prune autumn fruiting Raspberries:
Raspberry canes that fruit in the Autumn, such as the unsurpassable Autumn Bliss, bear fruits on stems that are grown in the season of fruiting. Therefore, to ensure plentiful crops this year, prune existing stems down to 10 cm above ground. Then, apply a balanced fertiliser and top dress the pruned canes to a depth of 5 cm with organic matter to protect emerging shoots from the frosts.
An essential ingredient of Chinese, Thai, Indian and North African dishes and my green salads, this annual herb is best sown successionally in small pots of well drained soil-based compost from now to late summer. I sow thinly and dont over water to avoid seedlings bolting, and for the best flavour keep the pots in full sun.
Protect Naturalised Bulbs
Spring bulbs naturalised in the lawn, such as Crocus and Narcissus, should be emerging through the grass now. To avoid them being trampled or mown, during the first lawn cuts of spring, I use willow or hazel stems pushed into the ground to create a temporary informal fence.
For the first half of the month I will be travelling around the country with Gardeners Question Time panel recording our weekly radio shows as well as doing a few evening talks of my own. Then from the middle of the month I head off to New Zealand to plant the show garden I have designed for the Ellerslie International Flower Show. It will be late summer for them so it will feel strange leaving our cold climes behind but I am really looking forward to bringing the scheme to life and having a chance to see something of the country whilst I am there. See more about what I am up to on www.chrisbeardshaw.com. If you want to ask gardening questions log onto www.gardenersclick.com