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My Garden Journal 2016 – February

Back with the second post sharing my 2016 Garden Journal, we will look at what it holds for February.

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On the first page for the month I mention the changing light values that occurs during February.

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“This is the month when light values really start to improve. We also get longer days when the weather allows. This change in light coupled with slowly rising temperatures encourages birds to change their songs and calls. The Great Tit is the master of calls with its huge repertoire. Luckily they are very frequent visitors to our garden. They are great entertainers! Their song in February is a “see-sawing ditty with mechanical overtones.” (Collins Bird Guide)

I added my gouache painting of a pair of Great Tits.

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On the opposite page I carried on talking about our continued development of our greenhouse.

Having completed the construction of our new heated propagation bench last month we then sorted out our pots, trays, pans and cells ready for the new sowing and growing season. We ensured we have plenty of labels as well as sowing compost and horticultural grit. Jude finished putting up insulation bubble wrap.”

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From greenhouse gardening to pond gardening, my next page features two photos of Jude the Undergardener in her waders playing in our wildlife pond.

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“Mid to late February is the time each year when our Common Frogs come to sing, mate and then leave balls of spawn in our wildlife pond. Thus early this month Jude donned her chest waders and cleaned up the pond. She removed Duckweed, Blanket Weed and fallen leaves, then thinned out the water plants.

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We tidied up the narrow border that edges the pond, pulling a few hardy weeds and taking up seedlings of our Cornus “Midwinter Fire”. It was heartening to discover how workable our soil was, this being the result of a decade of improving it with the addition of our own garden compost and the regular mulching deeply with organic matter.”

I continued onto the next page discussing the welcome appearance of sunshine in the February.

“Sunshine is not often in evidence this February but when it does make an appearance its effects are magical. It highlights the peeling bark of our trees and directs a spotlight on blossom and glossy foliage.”

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As I turn the page I see that I have written about cold temperatures and on the opposite page and on the following double page spread I share the amazing number of plants in flower on one day in February.

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“A sudden overnight plunge in temperature can have drastic looking effects on our early flowering plants. The flowering stem of this Bergenia can be standing to attention during the day but cold at night can make it droop, with the flowers almost touching the cold soil”.

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“The following day when the sun has driven away any frost and added a degree or two to the temperature, the Bergenia flower slowly rises again and returns to its former pink glory.”

February flowers are celebrated over the next three pages. I hope you enjoy sharing this selection of plants that keep us cheerful and the garden colourful.

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These pictures certainly illustrate how colourful and interesting the garden can still be in the depths of winter. From flowers I moved on to foliage, as on my next double page spread I celebrate Phormiums and how important they are to the winter garden.

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“Form, texture and foliage colours are so important in the garden in winter, so we are lucky to have discovered and planted Phormiums as they give us all three. They move beautifully too, swaying in the slightest breeze.”

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For some of our Phormium I took a shot of the whole plant and then one of the top surface of their leaves and finally the final surface. Their two surfaces are usually very different.

“I love plants that hide some facet of their beauty from us”.

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In the final pages of my February entries in my Garden Journal I wrote about coloured stems and look back at my first garden journal to see what I had put for my February entry.  I discovered that I was writing about grass and grasses.

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“It is in the dull times of February that we appreciate the brightly coloured stems of our Cornus, Salix and Acers. Once their leaves drop the colours, yellows, oranges and reds begin to intensify. I then shared a watercolour painting of a selection of these stems from our garden alongside a trio of photos.”

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Looking back at my original Garden Journal, I notice that I had commented “14th February and the grass gets its first cut. As the North wind died out the strength of the winter sun meant a good day could be had doing general maintenance work.” This year our grassed areas are wet and slimy and definitely too slippery to get a mower on. But the grass has continued to grow slowly so it is in need of its first cut. Meanwhile our ornamental grasses continue to delight.”

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So that is it for another month. Next time we make a visit to my Garden Journal we will be in March and maybe we shall be seeing signs of spring.

 

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A new border for Avocet.

We decided it was about time to give one of our borders here at Avocet a totally new look. Originally we had planted a tropical border in this patch as it is south facing and sits snuggly between the conservatory, the kitchen wall and the wall of the utility room. So we were confident that we could get some of the hardier palms, gingers and other exotic looking large leaved plants growing happily. However we soon learned that our garden was at the bottom of a slope where the frosty air settled after rolling down from the hill behind us. Thus our tropical plants were turned to mush in the first harsh winter.

Hence the rethink. We decided to strip the area bare, add copious amounts of our garden compost and replant with plants that hinted at the tropical look.

So the first task was to remove those plants that had survived including a large Black Bamboo. Hard work!! Next we had to replace the wooden edging board to hold back the gravel on the seating area alongside. Otherwise the gravel and soil slowly manage to get totally mixed together. Our selection of plants waiting to be planted can be seen in the picture below right.

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We then laid out the plants and played around with positioning them until we were satisfied with our new look. When we finished planting up our new friends we added hundreds of miniature daffodils and brightly coloured tulips in orange, red, yellow and purple. Purple Tulipa “Havran”, Ruby flowered Tulipa “Pallada”, and aptly named Tulips “Orange Brilliant” were planted in clumps between other clumps of Narcissus “Hawera”.

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We chose three varieties of different coloured Phormium with their tall sword shaped leaves. These are shown in the photos below – Phormium tenax Joker, Moonraker and Alison Blackman.

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The final look! Yes, we are quite pleased with that. We can’t wait to watch it develop from next spring onwards.

In between the Phormium you can see Fatsia japonica, Leucothe walteri “Zeblid”, Geranium palmatum, Heuchera “Obsidium” and Heucherella “Solar Eclipse”.

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