February 14th, St. Valentines Day, is traditionally said to be the day when birds start to nest. While this is debatable, late February can seem like spring but do not be fooled into sowing and planting too early as the first part of the month is definitely winter.
What you can do this month is some planning and maintenance to ensure that you love your garden come the summer. Winter is a good time to stand outside on your terrace, patio or deck, wherever you spend most tine in summer, and take a long, honest look at the garden. Is the layout the best that it can be? Do you have places to sit and entertain in the sun and the shade (ever hopeful!)? What about children playing: do you need to set aside a better space for them or is there an unused trampoline taking up the best spot? Without all the soft summer growth of leaves and flowers you can see the bare bones of your garden and there is time now to make changes before replanting in March and April. Act now and you really will love your garden this year.
Show some love too to the shrubs that form the backbone of your borders and they will reward you with years of healthy growth. Winter is the time to undertake pruning to renovate or reshape especially deciduous trees and shrubs when you can see all the branches clearly. Start with ‘housekeeping’ to cut out any dead or damaged wood and any weaker shoots that cross and rub against the main branches. Then stand back and check the overall shape: shrubs with a single trunk are usually best tweaked into an open, goblet shape whereas shrubs that grow as a thicket with no main framework just need occasional thinning out of the oldest wood,
Finally back to Valentines Day and I encourage you to show some love to the birds and other wildlife that shares your garden. As well as feeding birds through winter it is important to supply water for drinking and bathing nearby. As we get into March, the weather starts to warm and the days get longer and you will see buds breaking and new shoots appearing at the base of herbaceous perennials. This is the time to cut back the old top growth that has been protecting the crown of the plant through the coldest weather and sheltering insects too.
Happy Gardening, Alison.