February Garden

As the days lengthen and we move ever closer to Spring, the Snowdrops, Cyclamen coum and Winter Aconites that started to appear in January put on their best displays beneath deciduous trees and more heavenly Hellebore flowers unfurl. These brave flowers then begin to be joined by other beauties such as the early Crocuses and Dwarf Irises.

Crocus tommasinianus creating colourful carpets beneath the Beech Trees at Ballyrobert Gardens in County Antrim, NI (www.ballyrobertgardens.com)

Whilst Crocus tommasinianus is happy to self-seed and spread beneath the trees, I prefer to appreciate Iris reticulata and Iris histrioides close-up, planted en-masse in gorgeous pots on display for all to enjoy, as so beautifully done at Ashwood Nurseries and in John Massey’s Private Garden, always gracing his patio in February. The Dwarf Irises come in so many glorious colours and shades; from the vibrant purples and blues of e.g. ‘Harmony’, ‘Pauline’, ‘Blue Note’ and ‘George’, to the much paler and demure ‘Katharine Hodgkin’, ‘Katharine’s Gold’ and ‘Painted Lady’. I would like to acknowledge Dan Cooper, aka The Frustrated Gardener, whose glorious photographs I have used here and whose wonderful blogs have taught me so much about these glorious plants. I highly recommend spending some regular time reading Dan’s articles (frustratedgardener.com).

Other than the heavenly Hellebores, must-have Winter evergreens for me are the glossy-leaved Skimmias and Sarcococcas. These are both such fabulous groups of plants, being relatively unfussy in a moist, shady area and providing interest all-year-round with their gorgeous foliage, scented-flowers and berries. Skimmia buds are attractive during Winter before opening into sweet-scented flowers in Spring. The flowers can be followed by berries on self-fertile cultivars such as S. japonica subsp. reevesiana, or on female plants if you also have a male plant, as they are known as ‘dioecious plants’ , meaning they have female and male flowers on separate plants. Sarcococca often produce glossy, dark berries following their Winter, scented-flowers.

Possibly my favourite February shrub is Cornus mas (the Cornelian Cherry). This can be grown in the form of a small tree by removing lower branches, its bark is an attractive silver-grey and, if the new shoots are kept in trim, it should provide you with a mass of small, golden flowers borne in clusters, with attractive, protruding stamens, that somehow allow it to sparkle and shine in the February light.

So February gradually brings more colour into the Garden , enjoy it whilst it is with us and welcome the heralding of Spring !

Enjoy your Garden x .