Here we are with part two of my post featuring my garden journal, where we can look at what was going on in our garden in February.
The first entry in my Garden Journal for February shares another quote from Jenny Joseph, “The next day, after a morning as closed in as ever, something must have shifted in the upper air, for suddenly there were distances and some weight was lifted from my head.” The first photos in this month’s journal were of startlingly white Snowdrops. “Bulbs send their tiny bright flowers out to greet us. Tiny but precious gems.” was my accompanying note.
I also featured Primulas this month, “2015 is going to be a good year for Primulas. These two were flowering in the first days of Feb. Our plants of the native Primrose have been busy spreading their prodigy. We have seedlings in the gravel, in borders and in cracks in paving. Many are producing tiny flowers.”
The first day of the new month was spent in the garden and what a wonderful day we had. A bonus day outside in mid-winter is so welcome. We pruned the climbing roses, trimmed down the old growth of perennials to reveal the fresh green shoots eagerly waiting to burst into growth with the onset of Spring. The plant that never fails to impress is the Sedum with its virulent fresh growth waiting thickly at the base of last year’s cut down stumps.
The tall elegant stems of grasses are now cut close to the ground after their winter display. Even the gentlest of breezes has encouraged them to dance, their stems swaying stiffly but gracefully and their seed heads far more fluent in their dances. They will soon be back. In my journal I noted “Cutting down the grasses is a task I do with mixed emotions. They become old friends in the garden and provide homes for over-wintering wildlife. Ladybirds especially love the shelter of their stems.”
We like the month of February, as both Jude the Undergardener and I suffer from S.A.D.(seasonally adjusted disorder) and mid way through February we can spot a change in the light and literally feel an improvement in light quality and with it an improvement in our mood. I am sure the garden feels the same as all that future growth waits underground to burst forth and all those buds lie waiting on the resting bare branches of the deciduous trees and shrubs.
Birds are showing signs of getting themselves prepared for the rituals of spring that awaits them. Blue Tits are exploring nest boxes already with two boxes already held by two pairs. Collared Doves, those invaders to our shores, entertain us by filling the sky with their acrobatics designed to impress their mates. They fly diagonally backwards into the air!
In my journal I wrote “It is always heartening to hear the first signs of the “Dawn Chorus”. Top billing goes to the Song Thrush. This early in the year it has already started to stake his claim through song. By the end of the month he is joined by Blackbirds singing from high points on trees or buildings. Wrens are also now singing to mark their territories but their songs emanate from deep inside shrubs.”
Our attention is drawn to the wildlife pond from mid-February onwards as it is around this time that we start to hear the deep croaks of the male frogs calling the females in to join them in the water. One evening coming in from the garden we made a plan to clear the leaves and any winter debris from the pond the next day before the first frogs arrived. But they beat us to it for as we went into the garden to do just that a pair of mating frogs was in residence and close by lay a large glob of spawn. Our job became more difficult as we tried not to disturb their nuptials. My journal notes “February is also the month for mating frogs with their deep croaks heard from everywhere in the garden, “The Frogs’ Chorus!” We love frogs in the garden where they act as great pest controllers. Some move into the greenhouse once they leave the pond and work in there for us too. Free labour!
We can still enjoy the coloured stems of Cornus and Salix and the coloured textured trunks of the trees. The Betulas glow white with hints of silver, cream or salmon, while the Prunus serrula shines gold and brown. The brightest of all though must be Cornus “Midwinter Fire”. Late in this month however we begin the task of coppicing and pollarding, hard pruning to give us bright new stems with brighter colours in the year to come. My journal says, “It is also the time of year when we begin to coppice all our Dogwoods and willows. This is the last we shall see of their brightly coloured stems for a few months.” I move on to make special mention of the Violet Willow of which we have a trained multi-stemmed pollarded specimen which holds a great presence in the garden at every time of the year.
The photos below illustrate how its many colours vary with the changing light.
These shots show the before pruning and after pruning images, so you can see how hard we prune them down. We certainly need our strong, sharp loppers for this job.
The final pictures illustrate just how much wood is removed and shows the colours of the branches. All this material will be used for making plant supports and will be useful when we make a willow dome for some friends’ garden in a week or so (look out for a post about this). This is a fine example of recycling in action in the garden.
We shall make the next visit to my garden journal in the month of March which we hope is full of the promise of spring.