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Y ourwildlife

garden year

PLUS P MONTY on the plants pollinators need – and you’ll love P CAROL’s pick of flowers to sow now P ALAN shares his guide to foolproof veg P HOUSEPLANTS rediscovered P RIDE-ON MOWERS tested

We love

February ter-flowering shrubs for scented win

In old English, February was also known as the muddy month (Solmonath) or the month of cabbage (Kalemonath). Nothing much changes, for as we look out upon our gardens today, we can understand the Anglo-Saxon sentiments. The soil is pretty waterlogged and the only veg still standing in our allotments are the more hard-bitten brassica. However, we need not dwell long on such things as, unlike our unfortunate ancestors, we also have eggy aconites, the radiance of snowdrops and the aroma of winter-fowering shrubs to get us through the next 28 days. Words by James Alexander-Sinclair




This is the Japanese quince: a spiny shrub that sweeps into the gloom of winter with all the verve and ebullience of a wet puppy playing in a pile of laundry. At this time of year, what we all need is some zing and this plant does not disappoint. There are a few varieties, mostly in reds and pinks (although there is a white one, but it is not really loud and vulgar enough for me) that all fower early and then have delicious smelling, yellowy fruits in autumn. They are hard and sour when raw, but make good marmalade. P Care Can cope with any aspect and does not mind being a bit windswept. Best grown against a wall, as it’s quite messy without support. P Height x Spread 2m x 2m

February 2017

We love February

February 2017


Small budget

BIG impact


February 2017

fowers from seed

Want your garden to be a blaze of colour this summer, without spending too much money? Carol reveals the best statement fowers to sow now

Rudbeckia ‘Rustic Dwarfs’ gives Carol’s summer garden plenty of zing

February 2017

colour already? Borders bursting w it h blooms a nd conta i ners overf lowing with f lowers? It’s a tantalising prospect in the midst of winter. However, if you are anything like me, coffers are low at this time of year and you’re having to watch the pennies. Investing in a few packets of seeds and sow ing them now can return immense dividends. Not only can it deliver a scintillating show for next to nothing, but it is also especially rewarding as you nurture your plants from seed to maturity. For many devoted gardeners it’s an annual ritual to raise their own bedding plants for baskets, containers or planting schemes. But there is a whole different range of flamboyant f lowers that can add a much bigger, more dramatic kick to summer schemes and keep beds, borders and containers looking vibrant right through into autumn. Many of these glamorous blooms come from Mexico and they’re often members of the biggest-flowering plant family – Asteraceae – which means they are likely to have large, conspicuous petals in bee-attracting colours. Dahlias are perhaps their archetype – being ostentatious and gay. The usual way to bring dahlias into your garden is to buy tubers, but a far cheaper way of making lots of plants is to grow them from seed. You’ll find a comprehensive range of seed strains, but for me, nothing can beat Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’: bronze-leaved, with single flowers in dazzling colours. Cosmos are cousins to dahlias and equally easy to grow from seed. There is a vast array, ra ng i ng f rom t he t rad it iona l Cosmos


re you dreaming of summer


f o s t n e m le e e h t “ One of it t a h t is w o d a e Longm d u lo h it w t n a n o s e r is � s d in k ll a f o g n birdso


February 2017

wildlife gardens

Bees love astrantia fowers, which are rich in pollen

Planting for

pollinators Pollinators are vital to our gardens — and the planet. Monty explains why the plants we grow can make all the diference and reveals his favourites

Main: hellebores are a vital food source for bees out foraging early in the year. Opposite: Cosmos ‘Purity’

February 2017


t some stage this year,

I can guarantee someone will compliment me about Gardeners’ World but then add, “I do wish the BBC wouldn’t add the ridiculously fake bird soundtrack. It would be much better to be more natural.” And – as I have done so many times before – I will assure them that the soundtrack is real and natural, and that one of the noticeable elements of Longmeadow is that it is resonant with loud birdsong of all kinds. Now, if Longmeadow blackbirds and thrushes appear to sing extra loud, it is a n indication of t he population density of these and other songbirds in the garden – and that density is more a measure of habitat and food supply than the garden being any kind of horticultural des res. You need cover to attract birds, both for protection and nesting, for which deciduous hedges and small garden trees are ideal. Add in the other essential ingredients, of a certain lack of tidiness, water and long grass, and the garden – any garden – becomes the ideal home for songbirds.

But bear in mind that all those hu n g r y p r e d a t or s n e e d p r e y, meaning a certain balance has to be struck. So, you don’t try to eliminate all slugs and snails (chance would be a fine thing!) or aphids, whitefly or any other ‘pests’, but leave enough so that your garden can cope with their sl ig ht depredat ions a nd t he predators – whet her songbi rds, hedgehogs, toads or beetles – have enough to eat. This, in turn, means that you have a high number of predators to eat these pests, which are nearly always a symptom rather t han t he disease. So, instead of trying to get rid of them, work out what you are doing to make pests so welcome to your garden. A lmost c er t a i n l y y ou h av e up s et t he restraining, self-regulating balance. Fear not, it can be regained – but never by isolating and zapping pests. That balance, however, doesn’t happen without the helping ha nd of a ga rdener. A healthy garden is one where ever y action has a


Winter cheer

Make it now

Brighten up your garden in an instant, with these stylish containers. David Hurrion creates four diferent looks with hellebores

Cool and fresh Helleborus niger

The white Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is the star of this pot, so simply plant it with complementary evergreens to really give it a chance to shine. Here we’ve used a plain green ivy combined with golden variegated foliage to create the perfect trio. This pot will suit a sheltered, shady spot and will act as a focal point. Pick off the fowers as they start to fade to keep the pot looking fresh. More plants to try with hellebores: P Variegated euonymus P Variegated pieris

Variegated osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’)



White-glazed egg pot, Blossom range, 26cm, £12.99, see for stockists

All of the plants in this container can be moved to the garden when the display is past its best – they will live on happily for years


February 2017

hellebores in pots

Miniature daffodil (Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’) Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’


Variegated ivy (Hedera helix ‘Glacier’)

Sunny contrast


The elegantly pointed, grey-blue foliage of this hellebore complements the blue of the violas, while their cheerful yellow faces tie in well with the mini daffodil that we’ve used. You can buy pots of spring bulbs that are already in bud, and ready to plant out, at your local garden centre. Use this display to bring a spot of winter cheer to any sunny windowsill so that your outlook is always bright. More plants to try with hellebores: P Larger-fowered blue and yellow pansies P Blue primroses P Yellow crocus

February 2017

Vintage blue, Elho loft urban trough, 50cm, £14.79, see for stockists

Use a self-watering trough, with a built-in water reservoir at the base, to retain moisture round the plant roots



house guests


It’s time to rediscover indoor plants. Louise Curley shows how to pick plants that will thrive in every room of your home. Photos by Jason Ingram Houseplants may once have had a dusty, old-fashioned reputation, but they are very much back in style. Not only can they look modern and chic, but we’re also discovering the benefts of growing indoor plants. Greenery in our homes can make us feel calmer and increase our sense of wellbeing. Houseplants also help to purify the air by removing the toxins given off by furniture, cleaning products and electrical goods, which is especially useful at this time of year when we keep windows closed. Houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of the toxins in a room in 24 hours.* You might think that houseplants are hard to keep alive and healthy, but if you choose the right ones for the right spots, and give them the growing conditions they like, they’re very easy to care for. Use this guide to fnd plants that will thrive in every room of your home, making a welcome addition to your life.

Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

Where to buy For a range of houseplants try: P 01978 790677 (for streptocarpus) P 01435 874874 P 01276 476778 P 01323 833479 P

Find similar containers at trouva. com and


Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii)

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Ocean’)


Peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Wipe dust from smooth-leaved plants with a damp cloth to help them photosynthesise effciently

Shady corner Verdant and variegated Wandering jew (Tradescantia zebrina)

Where With their attractive foliage, these plants are great for brightening up areas away from windows, such as hallways or corners, as they can cope with less light than other houseplants. They like to stay out of direct sun, but need to be kept reasonably warm – ideally the temperature shouldn’t drop below 10-12°C. Also keep them away from any cold draughts. Watering Water regularly in summer, but don’t let them

sit in water. Keep them on the dry side over winter, allowing the compost to dry out between waterings. During spring and summer, feed every three weeks with a houseplant fertiliser. TLC All of these, apart from the mother-in-law’s tongue, like to have their leaves misted regularly. Moving on up These slowgrowing plants are happy to stay in the same pot for several years.


. h it w s s e c Su c


Growing veg is easy and productive once you know the pitfalls to avoid. Follow Alan Titchmarsh’s expert guide to get your best-ever harvest




t’s customary, when writing about

that means giving the plants themselves veg growing, to begin by waxing the best possible chance of doing well. ly rica l about t he f lavour, t he Oh, and there are two important things tenderness and the freshness of to remember: first, only grow crops that home-grown produce. But then any fool you enjoy eating. Obvious? Only perhaps knows that. The real reward is the sense after you’ve sown a row of every possible of satisfaction and achievement. Yes, veg, in a fit of early spring passion, then I admit there are frustrations to be faced find that half of them run to seed because when growing your own food – from pests no one in the family likes eating them. The and diseases to droughts second is to ensure no and frosts – but we do it crop goes short of water. because we love doing it. Now is a great Dryness at the roots will And because there’s a bring growth to a halt time to start on kind of integrity about and may cause plants to vegetable gardening – soil preparation and run to seed. Evenly moist a primal instinct to keep earth is the best way seed ordering body and soul together. to ensure success with The trick is to try and all vegetables. reduce the chances of things going wrong. Whatever you decide on, now is a great Any garden can produce vegetables, time to start on soil preparation and seed whatever its size, provided the conditions ordering. Never, ever, sow any seeds when are right and aspirations are tailored the ground is too cold or too wet. But seed to circumstances. Where space is at a selection can be done at any time (and the premium, salads can be grown in pots seeds then stored in a cool, dry place), and w indowboxes, and tomatoes in and the soil can be prepared whenever it’s hanging baskets. What I want to do here not frozen or soggy. Well-rotted manure is make sure you stand the best possible and a good general-purpose fertiliser are chance of getting a decent harvest, and essential helpmates in food growing.

February 2017

vegetables Growing your own veg rewards you with tasty crops, and a sense of achievement

February 2017


Plan your four seasons of pruning Good timing is the key to good pruning, and for this you need to know how plants grow, what the stages of growth look like, and when they fower and fruit.

Spring  State of growth

 What to prune

New growth on deciduous shrubs is usually pliable and green or pale in colour. Spring is the season when growth tends to be at its most vigorous.

Summer-flowering shrubs: buddleia, perovskia, spiraea and fuchsias, in early spring before growth starts. Winter- and springflowering shrubs: Viburnum bodnantense, winter honeysuckle, forsythia and weigela, after fowering. Frost-tender shrubs: abutilons, acacia and others, in mid- to latespring, after fnal frost. Evergreen shrubs and conifers: after the risk of frost has passed to avoid frost damage to new shoots.

 Why prune

in spring? It channels sap fow and growth into fewer buds and stems. It also opens up the centre of plants to allow better air circulation, which deters pests and diseases in summer. Pruning cuts tend to heal more rapidly when plants are growing strongly.


Autumn  State of growth

 What to prune

Shoot tips stop growing and become frm. Welldefned buds form at the base of leaf stalks. The stems of shrubs, fruit bushes and trees become tough and woody. Some plants may produce soft growth during spells of warm weather, which is prone to frost damage.

Summer fruit: blackcurrants, summer raspberries, blackberries and hybrid cane fruit. Damaged, rubbing branches: broken and closely placed or crossing branches. Diseased stems: remove infected stems that could reinfect the following year’s growth. Bush and shrub roses: cut back tall stems by about a third, so plants are less susceptible to wind-rock during gales. Climbers: to reduce the chances of them blowing down in winter.

 Why prune

in autumn? To remove damaged stems and those liable to damage by windy weather, and to reduce the weight of summer growth where required.


Pruning Masterclass 2017: Thursday 9 March & Thursday 30 March Join David Hurrion, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Associate Editor, who will share his pruning expertise in a day full of hands-on practical advice and inspiring ideas, for gardeners of all levels.


Learn how to prune your shrubs  Discover which plants to prune in spring  The right tools and how to use them  Where to cut and how hard to cut back  How to get more fowers and fruit

Included in your day  Four practical pruning sessions led by David Hurrion  A set of notes to keep from each session, full of inspiring ideas and practical tips February 2017


Summer  State of growth Most shrubs, trees and fruit bushes slow their growth as the weather gets hotter and water is less available. New stems start to change from green to tan, russet or brown. They become less pliable. Sideshoots form on the main spring shoots. A second fush of soft growth may appear in late summer.

 Why prune

in summer? Reduces vigour by removing shoot tips, which contain growthinducing nitrogen and hormones. Promotes

fower buds on springfowering trees and shrubs. Cuts heal rapidly.

 What to prune Fruit trees: new growth of apples, pears and other fruit trees, when growth ripens in late June and July. Hedges and topiary: trim soft, green shoots. Large trees: thin out the crown and low branches of trees in summer to control the extent and severity of shading problems. Ornamentals: deadhead fowering shrubs, including roses, for further fushes of fowers.

Winter  State of growth Deciduous shrubs, bushes and trees have woody, bare stems. The oldest wood is dark brown or grey in colour. The youngest growth is bright yellow, orange, red or russet or covered in a white waxy or downy coating. Evergreens will retain their foliage, but make little or no growth.

 Why prune

in winter? Promotes vigorous regrowth in spring. This is useful for rejuvenating overgrown specimens and for encouraging

Free access to the gardens and plant shop after the Masterclass  Tea, coffee and biscuits on arrival  A delicious lunch (special diets may be accommodated)  A goody bag with compliments of Gardeners’ World Magazine 

February 2017

Locations  Farley Hill Place Gardens near Reading (Thursday 9 March 2017)  Stockton Bury Gardens Leominster, Hereford (Thursday 30 March 2017)

juvenile growth for particular effects (vibrant stems or large leaves).

 What to prune Coloured-stemmed shrubs: dogwoods, willow and rubus (whitestemmed bramble) – cut them back hard at the end of winter. Roses: shrub roses, large- and clusterfowered hybrid varieties and climbing types, in late winter when the worst frosts have ended. Trees: remove large branches of ornamental and fruiting trees when you can see their structure clearly.

How to book ✆ 08712 200260* quote GW Masterclass Prices £125 subscribers £135 non-subscribers For more information, go to T&Cs: In the case of unforeseen circumstances, experts may be substituted.

*All calls are charged at 10p per minute plus your network access charge.



Monty’s month


FEBRUARY AT Longmeadow is, for me, the beginning of spring rather than a continuation of the long, drawn-out winter months. The evidence is accumulating daily: snowdrops, aconites, hellebores, violets, crocus, muscari, early daffodils, a wonderful show of early irises. The garden is testing these early waters with a wide range of lovely flowers. Aside from the appearance of specific plants, there’s a sense that the sap is rising, and there’s energy building beneath bare patches of soil that will soon erupt into growth. Even snow and ice can’t blunt the edge of this, while the lengthening days add hope and expectation as the weeks lead into spring. It’s a busy time, too, with the last winter work to be done, bare-root planting, winter pruning and digging. Ideally this will be finished by the month’s end, as well as the early seeds all sown.

Monty gets early colour from his spring favourite, Primula vulgaris

February 2017

WATCH Monty videos about what you can sow and plant in winter at gardenersworld. com/seeds-bulbs


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Browse sample pages from the subscriber edition of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, February 2016 issue.

Subscribe to BBC Gardeners' World Magazine  

Browse sample pages from the subscriber edition of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, February 2016 issue.