The weather in February was extraordinary – not due to snow and freezing conditions like last year; but for the warm sunny days with record breaking temperatures, writes our gardening columnist, Jackie Power…
Daylight hours are increasing as we head through March (British Summer Time begins on 31st); the small birds are noisier and more active; winter days are behind us (although not necessarily the cold weather).
This is the final month for planting shrubs and trees – there is no time to lose as the growing season is well underway; given a boost by the unusual warmth during February.
Garden centres are full of seasonal favourites – violas, pansies, dwarf Narcissi, Jonquils and brightly coloured primroses; all can be used for displays to brighten up the garden or window boxes.
Viburnum tinus, a winter flowering evergreen shrub and Euonymus, an evergreen with variegated foliage, bought as small specimens can be grown in containers alongside spring flowers.
The evergreens can be left in place when seasonal displays are changed for different flowering plants later in the year.
Camellia japonica has been in bloom since late January and is joined by Witch hazel and Daphne mezereum.
The latter is a deciduous shrub – a treasure to have in the winter garden; it produces little star shaped, highly perfumed purple-pink or violet flowers during February / March.
The leaves appear once flowering is over. Daphne is described as a woodland plant and is happy in a shaded spot. The height and spread of this shrub is about a metre.
It can be grown in containers but dislikes root disturbance; and so needs to go into a large pot at the start.
Daphne will not tolerate drought and needs to be adequately watered in dry weather, especially if grown in a container.
They are susceptible to pest and disease attack – any infestations need to be dealt with quickly. This shrub is well worth growing; the best time to plant is either March or September.
Summer flowering bulbs (or rhizomes) such as Cannas, Freesias, Nerines and Polianthes tuberosa can be planted in the borders (or containers) where they will slowly develop and emerge later in the year.
Add well rotted organic manure or compost (top dress) around shrubs.
This can also be done for larger plants growing in pots; it replenishes nutrients and also helps to retain moisture as the weather begins to warm up.