February can be a difficult month, when it seems if it has been a long and dreary winter. On a positive note, the days are starting to lengthen, and it’s a great time to plan the gardening year – both practically in the garden, and by ordering the seeds and plants you will soon be sowing and planting.
Here’s what’s on our gardening agenda this month while we wait for spring:
Feed the Soil! The soil is still soaked in the garden, so I won’t be doing any major work, but I as I have quite nutrient poor, clay soil, I will be adding compost and fertiliser to the kitchen garden beds. I don’t often buy in manure, but I ask a lot from the flowers and produce in my beds, so this year I will be buying in some manure locally. I won’t deep dig but spread it out and ‘ruffle’ it in and let the worms do the rest.
Roses: I always find the idea of roses for Valentine’s day quite sad – thinking of the impact that hot house bouquets have on the environment, especially so far out of season. I grow a number of roses in the garden, particularly scented varieties, and then enjoy them at the right time of year, when they flower naturally. Here are some of my top tips for beautiful blooms:
I have grown roses in my ‘Yew Walk’ for years, but in all honesty this area has become too dark for good roses, so I have decided to move many of them into other parts of the garden. One rose that has been brilliant however is ‘The Fairy’ so I will probably leave that in situ. I don’t have much success moving roses, so I will treat the roots with mycorrhizal fungi which helps the roots to grow. Roses need sun, moisture and fertility to produce of their best.
I try to select roses which are robust, healthy, repeat blooming and good as cut flowers. Here are some of my favourites
The Pilgrim. David Austin Climber. This variety has quite large, typical ‘rose’ flowers in pale yellow. It has a lovely fragrance and mixes well with other plant colours. It is a quick grower and produces flowers and leaves lower down the stems as well. I first noticed this variety years ago in the lovely rose gardens at Coughton Court in Warwickshire which is well worth a visit.
A Whiter Shade of Pale. A lovely compact blush pink fragrant rose that flowers all summer into the autumn. Good disease resistance.
The Fairy. A Polyantha rose, which is about 2ft + high and is a very spreading variety so is ideal for massed, ground cover planting. It produces clusters of bead-like buds open to globular, pink flowers almost continuously throughout the summer. Good glossy foliage.
Iceberg. This is a floribunda, either a bush rose or a climber which bears large clusters of medium-sized, lightly double, pure white flowers, sometimes tinged with pink in late summer. It flowers from early in the season and has a light fragrance.
The Generous Gardener. Climber. This is a David Austin rose and is probably my favourite rose. It has beautifully formed flowers, which are a pale glowing pink and have a delicious fragrance. It is healthy and robust. I think that ‘The New Dawn’ rambler may be a parent, but this rose, although lovely, has terrible black spot.
Queen of Sweden. Forms a bushy, yet upright shrub. It has beautiful, cup-shaped flowers with upright growth with little buds. The colour starts as soft-apricot pink, then matures to pure soft pink. It has a lovely fragrance, and is good for cutting. Perfect for a wedding or Christening.
Princess Alexandra. A deep pink vigorous bush rose for cutting, with a lovely scent and few thorns.
If you want to make an impact then plant the roses in a discrete bed as they prefer not to be mixed in with other plants if you can help it, and certainly plant in blocks if you are cutting for the home.
On the topic of cutting flowers we have started to add our workshop and courses programme for 2020. We won’t be doing too many in the first half of the year as we are so busy in the garden, but come August our thoughts turn to our gardening events.