Colour For February – And Beyond

16th January 2015

The colour of love for St Valentine is definitely yellow, as some gardens start to see daffodils beginning to bloom in February. It’s the colour of happiness and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and Spring ... which is why Spring bulbs really do herald an end to dark winter days, bringing a welcome splash of colour to the garden when few other plants are in flower.

Gardening myth of the month is that you should knot daffodil leaves after they have finished flowering. But this is a definite ‘no’. Knotting daffodil leaves can restrict the photosynthesis necessary to create as much food as possible to produce next year's flowers. You should also not mow the leaves for a good six weeks after flowering for the same reason although it is worth deadheading the flowers to stop seed production, which takes energy from the formation of next year's bulb.

Another splash of colour in the garden during February comes from heather. Great for ground cover, heathers (over 4,000 varieties to choose from) are very hardy, evergreen and need little maintenance so are ideal for a novice gardener. They are best planted in beds totally devoted to themselves with plenty of drainage, not under trees, and in a sunny, south facing position. They are also good as path liners, rockery plants and in pots. Apart from the flower colour, they have wonderful foliage which changes colour throughout the year.

It’s a plant that is both beautiful – and, at least historically– useful. In the past, its branches have been used for thatch, brooms, rope, baskets, bedding, fuel, honey, tea, ale and mead. Folklore has it that purple is associated with admiration, beauty and solitude and white with protection from danger – the latter popularised by the Victorians as a token of good luck. The national flower of Scotland, along with the thistle, it’s also an invaluable food source for wildlife.

Top tips for February…

Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover

Chit potato tubers

Protect the blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches

Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off

Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering

Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’

Prune Wisteria

Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges

Prune conservatory climbers

Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter

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