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My Garden Journal 2019 – February

Here we are visiting my garden journal for the second time in 2019 with my February entries. My first double page spread was all about the week that spanned the last few days of January which delivered snowfall and the first few days of February which gave us a heavy frost.

The photos on the left hand page illustrated some of our winter flowering scented shrubs topped off with a layer of deep frost. I wrote, The last few days of January shared a week with the first few days of February. It was a cold week cheered greatly by the appearance of flowers on our winter shrubs, which also delighted with their rich scents.”

“The delights of scented winter shrubs. Food for winter flying moths.”

   

Opposite my photos showed the effects of snow on our sculpture, both man-made and created by Mother Nature, the seedleads of grasses and perennials.

“The snowfall that came and went all within a day.”

       

Over the page my next two pages concerned with a period of strong winds and the earliest of bulbs to flower in our patch.

I wrote, “February 9th delivered gale force winds overnight so firstjob on the 10th was inspecting for damage. Luckily very little was to be found just a few minor happenings.” 

  

“One broken stake of a support trio. Plant labels blown around the garden. 

“Part of an insect home blown down. Plant protection bags blown off delicate shrub Loropetala.”

 “Collapsed Calamagrostis”

On the opposite page I wrote, “February sees the first of our bulbs coming into flower.”

 

“A pale crocus and an deep purple Iris reticulata.”

  

“Snowdrops have bulked up nicely.”

 “Winter Aconite give winter gold”  

“Cyclamen at the base of our Field Maple.”

The next double page spread is all about Hellebores and we have so many.

I wrote, “Hellebore hybrids and self-seeders are blooming throughout our garden.”

    

“Euphorbia foetidus grows to small shrub proportions in the rich soil in our patch. Its acid-yellow bracts sit well against its deep green deeply cut foliage. It has a rather unfortunate common name of “Stinking Hellebore”, but is also called “Barfoot”.

“Even more of our Hellebore hybrids.”

     

Turning over the page one more time I looked at some indoor gardening related jobs and wrote, “Wet days in February afford us the opportunity to catch up on indoor tasks such as chitting potatoes, starting off Dahlias and Cannas as well as sowing seeds of perennials and a few annuals.”

      

I continued, “Meanwhile outside we continue to tidy up border by border. Sorting our gravel garden, the Chatto Border, is a major task so we do that work on days when Ian, our part-time gardener is around to help us. We also dug up and divided Day Lilies.”

   

About Crocus I wrote, “Whatever the weather, sunny or overcast, the gold of Crocus shines through, even the purple coloured varieties have spots of deep yellow, almost orange.”

Turn over and I share the surprise of a wildlife visitor, about which I wrote, “There is a surprising amount of wildlife activity in our February garden. Recent sunny, warmer than average days have encouraged our resident birds to start singing and calling. The Song Thrush calls loudly from first light along with Robins, Dunnock and Wren while overhead Buzzards and Red Kite mewl as they soar. As the light levels drop Tawny Owls called for long periods of time. Sunshine also brings out Bumble Bees and Honey Bees to feed off early flowers of bulbs and the first butterfly of the year makes its appearance. A stunningly beautiful Red Admiral rests on a wall taking in the extra warmth of the sun on the bricks.

 

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My Garden Journal 2018 – February

Part two of my 2018 Garden Journal sees us still freezing cold and struggling to get time in the garden.

I opened my February entries by noting, “February is the month when we feel that the quality of the light improves and makes us feel better and there are definite signs of the days lengthening. Early bulbs begin flowering and others are showing strong leaf growth.”

  

I next sought out another quote from Dan Pearson’s book, “Natural Selection” and was pleased to find this one, “Making room for the winter garden is every bit as important as managing a garden that draws your attention in the dark months.”

 

Turning over to the next double page spread I write about newly acquired plants.

 

“It is always an enjoyable time planting newly acquired plants but it is an extra-special experience doing so in February. We were delighted to find good healthy specimens of two fastigiate plants, a Taxus baccata “Fastigiata Robusta” and an Ilex crenata “Fastigiata”. The only two fastigiate plants we have already established at Avocet are a Berberis and an Oak, Berberis thunbergia fastigiata atropurpurea “Helmond Pillar” , (a tall thin shrub  with a long thin name!” and Quercus palustris “Green Pillar” which despite its name is grown for its deep red autumn colour.”

  

We also recently planted a Viburnum with a very different growth habit to our fastigiate purchases. It is a low growing shrub with a very open, airy growth and sweetly scented flowers in April. It is also described as “almost evergreen”, so we will wait and see exactly how ours behaves. We already have a good collection of Viburnums around our Avocet patch.”

 

Some of my watercolour sketches of Hellebores and details of their petals feature on the next page.

 

“Hellebores peak in February adding a richness with the deep reds and purples as well as cheeriness with their yellow flowers.”

“I love turning up each flower to reveal its beauty, its colours and markings of spots and streaks.”

 

On the opposite page I looked at some of our grasses with winter interest and share some photos of them.

“In late February we begin to cut down “deciduous” grasses, choosing the right time to avoid cutting through this year’s new growth. Evergreen grasses especially varieties of Carex  come into their own especially when partnered with evergreen foliage plants such as ferns, bergenias and arums.”

 

Moving on to the final double page spread for February, I considered coloured stemmed Dogwoods and a look at roses as they give their final points of interest before they are pruned and begin to grow anew for this year.

“The coloured stems of Dogwoods add so much colour to the winter borders. We use them to catch the rays of the low sun which helps them to glow and liven up our garden.”

 

I finished off my February journal entries by featuring roses and a very special plant, special because it is a dogwood that occurred in our garden as a chance seedling of Midwinter Fire crossed with one of our other Cornus plants. We have grown it on and now take lots of cuttings hoping to bulk it up. We hope to be able then to sell them at our open days. Very exciting!

I wrote, “Our Cornus Midwinter Fire throws up new plants from runners and occasionally a few from seed. The runners are identical to the parent plant but the seedlings can vary a lot. We pot the seedlings on and then plant them out on our allotment plot to allow us to identify “star plants”. We have one which is far redder than its parents and has better autumn colour. We are propagating these (see below). We have named it Cornus “Arabella’s Crimson” after our granddaughter.”

My final page is about roses and yellow flowers of the February garden. The yellow flowers are Jasminum nudiflorum, Cornus mas and a pale yellow rose bud. I wrote “Sparkling spots of yellow flowers brighten up the February weather, fighting against this month’s greys.”

“Late February is the time when we begin  pruning our bush roses in readiness for the new growing season. We always find wrinkled rose hips and even the odd flower bud.

 

“Next month is one we really look forward to. Already by mid-February light values have improved, but soon Spring may begin to creep in!”

 

 

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My 2017 Garden Journal – February

Here is the second time in 2017 when I share with you my Garden Journal, so please enjoy my February pages.

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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.”

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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.”

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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”.

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A February flowering shrub features on the next double-page spread along with Hellebores.

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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.”

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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.”

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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”.

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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.”

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“Mr and Mrs Green Man”

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Rotting wood pile, Acer and Ivy, Ivy and Fern.”

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New growth appearing in the Shade Garden”

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Ivy is the feature plant over the next pair of pages.

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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.”

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We grow this unusual shrubby variety, Hedera helix “Erecta”, a bit of a novelty!”

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Another shrubby variety which flowers and berries profusely, Hedera helix “Arborescens.”

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Variety in variegation.”

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Finally two climbing ivies growing in our Shade Garden.

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“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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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We next turn over to a double page spread all about early flowers and a plant that displays amazing unusual foliage.

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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.”

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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.” 

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We are so pleased to have established a clump of the rare Arum Lily called “Arum italicum Chameleon”, seen in photo below.

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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.

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This final picture of new growth illustrates how new growth of Pulmonarias shows both foliage and flower bud shooting together.

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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.”

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And so that is my February report from my Garden Journal. We will visit again in March.

 

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Lottie Bulbs

A mid-February walk around our lottie site on a dull grey day was much improved by the colour of the earliest bulbs. Each autumn we invite donations of bulbs from members and now we are seeing and appreciating the results of our members’ efforts.

We grow lots of these early bulbs as they provide very early pollen for any bees that come out on mild days. We need to look after our bee friends as they help pollinate our fruit, peas and beans and many more crops.

The gold of crocuses (or should that be croci or perhaps simply just crocus?) brightens the orchard meadow.

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Snowdrops and Winter Aconites go together like chalk and cheese. Together they light up the Winter Garden.

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Even in the Summer Garden spring bulbs have a place. These beautiful blue iris cheer everyone up as they pass by.

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The tiniest and most delicate flowers of February are those of the cyclamen which mingle with the bark and fallen leaves in the Sensory Garden. The leaves have fallen from the nearby old Oak tree.

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Accidental juxtaposition of plants often give the best combinations. These crocus surprised us when they chose to flower above the bronze leaves of a Saxifraga.

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We now eagerly await the masses of Daffodils planted around the site and on the grass verges outside our gates. They will be closely followed by the Tulips in their myriad colours.