February brought a rise in temperatures (after a brief cold snap in late January) and torrential rain and gale force winds returned.
This has been the general pattern of weather for most of the winter months in London, and it does not look likely to change.
Clumps of fragile Snowdrops are now beginning to make their late appearance alongside the delicate blue grape hyacinths, a contrast to the yellow flowers of winter jasmine, Witch hazel and the dwarf narcissi. The evergreen Camellia (pictured)?with its deep green shiny leaves and wonderful soft pink or white blooms has come in to flower weeks early. Magnolia stellata, which usually flowers in March, was out at the beginning of February, its delicate white petals are falling quickly or being damaged in the blustery cold winds.
Soil remains water-logged, but if conditions allow, planting can be carried out during February and March. There is still time to order trees and shrubs from the catalogues or online, to complete planting by the end of March, although there may be less choice available as the year progresses. J Parkers has a good selection of shrubs, trees and seasonal plants – 0161 848 1100 – www.jparkers.co.uk. If you are considering planting fruit trees and would like to try something more unusual ‘Little Pax’ is a late dessert apple, newly introduced (2014) from St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight. It produces tasty red and crunchy fruits which store well. Little Pax will need a companion for pollination such as Discovery, Cox or Bramley. Look for M9 dwarfing root stock (height 6-10 feet) which is suitable for large containers and smaller gardens. Fruit trees available from Marshalls 0844 557 6700 or
Some pruning work can be done during February, however it is important to do this at the right time for the particular plant otherwise irreparable damage can be done; summer flowering types of clematis can be cut back to about two feet above the ground. The Beauty Berry or Callicarpa can be trimmed to reduce its size, but don’t cut into or remove the old wood – just take off some of last year’s growth which is easy to identify.