Contrary to the view of many, February can be a cheerful and eventful month in the garden. After snow and freezing temperatures, warmer, wet days are welcome respite. This year, many spring-flowering perennials such as Hellebores have coped with their buds and stems being curled over by the frost and snow, and they are now bursting into bloom. It is interesting to reflect which plants in your garden or containers have survived the inhospitable conditions. Always check the hardiness of the plants you are placing outside. Buying plants that were cultivated in the region or in similar conditions to those in which they are to be planted, gives one confidence that they will be able to cope with the climate. Choosing a specimen that is a repeat-flowering or late-flowering variety of shrub/tree will lessen the chances of a late frost or cold spell having an adverse effect. Ensuring that plants that may be vulnerable, are placed in a more sheltered position can also increase the chances of their performance not being threatened.
The green shoots of Crocus, Daffodils and dwarf Iris are breaking through the surface of the soil indicating the imminent arrival of Spring. Snow drops have been flowering since December and are now at their peak, together with Hellebores and another early flowering bulb, the Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. The lime-green flowers and columns of glossy, dark green leaves of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae are the perfect foil for these spring bulbs, whose foliage is often insignificant or their least attractive attribute. Deciduous trees have still to come into leaf and their silhouettes and any sunlight coming through their branches, provide the ideal setting for spring bulbs.
Some shrubs and climbers are vying for attention too: for example, Viburnum tinus, Skimmia, Witchhazel and winter-flowering honeysuckle and clematis should be flowering copiously. Evergreen shrubs such as Box, Yew, Eleagnus and Euonymus come into their own, providing structure, and a green back drop to the bare soil and early spring shoot and flowers. Colourful Winter stems and bark can also provide vibrant colour such as bright red, yellow and orange Dogwood stems; the red, peeling bark of Prunus serrula; the white, peeling bark of the Silver Birch; and the coral-red stems of Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’.
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