Here is the second time in 2017 when I share with you my Garden Journal, so please enjoy my February pages.
On the first double page spread I look at Snowdrops and some early plants of interest. I wrote, “February, the month when gardeners’ working hours increase and the light values improve strongly. The snow white of the humble Snowdrop intensifies in the special brightness.”
On the opposite page I wrote, “Our native Primroses, Primula vulgaris, begin to flower in February ready to be at their peak in early Spring. Pink “rogue” Primroses appear as self-seeders. Foliage of Primula vulgaris is beautifully textured and patterned.”
“Other early flowering plants giving bright spots in our borders include Crocus and Pulmonaria. This golden Crocus has a bright green Pittosporum as its partner. The pink Pulmonaria is partnering a fern and an Arum, A. italicum “Marmoratum”.
A February flowering shrub features on the next double-page spread along with Hellebores.
The flowering shrub is Cornus mas, which reliably flowers profusely early every year. I have selected it as my “Plant of the Month” for February. I wrote, “The star of our garden this month has to be Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry, with its bright yellow flowers with just a hint of green. We prune off the lower branches and select main boughs to improve the structure of our’s and this also exposes the texture of the bark on the lowest boughs.”
I moved on to show a few of our many Hellebore hybrids and wrote, “Hellebore hybrids start to put on a colourful show from green to yellow and from red to purple. Lots more will come into flower throughout the coming weeks.”
The last photo is not a hybrid Hellebore like the others but our native Helleborus foetidus with its pale green flowers, a subtle beauty with an upright habit.
On the turning of the page we discover my account of re-developing an old border, the Shade Garden”.
I wrote that “By mid-February we had finished re-vamping our “Shade Garden”, an opportunity that arose when we moved a shed that was situated part way along it. The shed was just 6ft by 3ft but the space released by its removal seemed far more significant that that. Its removal opened up the border. We decided to add a couple of Maples, Acer palmatum “Koto-no-ito” and Acer palmatum “Eddisbury”, and increase the variety and number of ferns and grasses, We liked the idea of mixing ferns and grasses, a new plant combination for us.”
“Mr and Mrs Green Man”
“Rotting wood pile, Acer and Ivy, Ivy and Fern.”
“New growth appearing in the Shade Garden”
Ivy is the feature plant over the next pair of pages.
I wrote of the ivy, “The humble English Ivy, Hedera helix is a stalwart of any wildlife garden and we grow dozens throughout our Avocet patch. They clamber over fences, climb inside our covered seat and act as ground-cover. They attract wildlife who welcome their pollen and nectar late in the year, their berries in winter and shelter and nest sites.”
“We grow this unusual shrubby variety, Hedera helix “Erecta”, a bit of a novelty!”
“Another shrubby variety which flowers and berries profusely, Hedera helix “Arborescens.”
“Variety in variegation.”
Finally two climbing ivies growing in our Shade Garden.
“Hedera helix “Emerald Gem” “Hedera canariensis “Gloire de Marengo.”
Next I featured the birds that share our garden with us, particularly the ones who take advantage of our feeding stations.
“The birds have been busy in the garden during the month, feeding heavily to compensate for the cold nights. Their new year songs fill the garden from dawn until dusk. The Tawny Owls keep going, calling loudly from dusk through the hours of darkness.”
“Birds are singing now to attract mates and make declarations of territory. In January birds just called but now they sing so powerfully and tunefully. Recently a Reed Bunting (photo bottom right) has become a regular visitor as have the pair of Collared Doves.”
“Goldfinches are now the most common bird in our Avocet garden. The population of most UK birds is dropping and this is especially marked in our song-birds. The wonderful Goldfinch is an exception, with its population on the increase. It is the entertainer of the bird feeders, being agile and fast-moving.
We think of it as our garden’s clown with its bright red face, black and white striped head and bright yellow wing flashes. We managed to increase the numbers visiting our garden by filling some feeders with sunflower hearts. Goldfinches love them as do other finches who visit.”
We next turn over to a double page spread all about early flowers and a plant that displays amazing unusual foliage.
I wrote, “The variety of bulbs that flower in the period when Winter becomes Spring, increases greatly in February. Snowdrops dominated the January borders in our Avocet garden but in February they get new flowering partners, Crocuses, Cyclamen, Muscari and the golden-petaled Winter Aconites.
Sunny days see these flowers open wide to greedily absorb the new light quality that February brings.”
Concerning the unusual Arums we grow I continued, “Arum italicum ssp. italicum “Marmoratum” formerly known simply as Arum italicum “Marmoratum”. This is a tuberous perennial which we grow in our Shade Garden and beneath the shade of small trees. We like them for their foliage, arrow-shaped, extremely glossy and varied in its leaf patterns. Leaves are best described as being “marbled” with white, silver, ivory or cream markings. It flowers in Spring, producing cream spathes and in Autumn vertical columns of bright red berries shoot up to a foot tall. In addition to those attributes, wildlife loves the Arum Lily, bees, butterflies, moths and lots of beneficial predatory insects.”
We are so pleased to have established a clump of the rare Arum Lily called “Arum italicum Chameleon”, seen in photo below.
More foliage features over on the following pages, the newly emerging foliage of perennials.
I wrote, “In the second half of the month we had a special treat in store, a few days of heatwave with daytime temperatures reaching 15 C in Plealey. This resulted in rush of new growth from the perennials that had died down after their display last year. The photos show perennial growth with new leaf growth penetrating the soil like the blades of swords.
This final picture of new growth illustrates how new growth of Pulmonarias shows both foliage and flower bud shooting together.
Opposite I share photos of broad-leaved perennials displaying their new growth, where I wrote, “Elsewhere broad-leaved herbaceous perennials were unfurling their fresh foliage ready for the new year. Here we have new leaves of Primula vulgaris, Sedum, Aquilegia, Polemonium, Centaurea, Fennel and Geranium palmatum. More growth appears daily as February comes to an end. It all bodes well for Spring and Summer.”