Winter is said to start on 21st December at the Solstice – and lasts for three months therefore, we are about midway through, writes Jackie Power…
This timescale is more of a convenient description for weather forecasters rather than the actual length that each season lasts. As temperatures began to fall around the third week in January – sleet and snow showers arrived.
February brings Snowdrops, golden Crocus and early varieties of daffodils; these bulbs together with the bright yellow of the winter Jasmine, Witch hazel, Mahonia and pink Camellia flowers bring more colour to the winter garden.
Weather permitting – trees, shrubs and fruit bushes can be planted – this is one of the usual tasks for February, although planting can be delayed until March if it is too wet or the ground is frozen.
Dwarf fruit trees such as apple, cherry or pear can also be planted in pots on the balcony/patio. They are lovely plants to grow – with soft white or pink blossom in spring and fruits late summer / autumn! It is also possible to grow raspberries (dwarf variety ‘Ruby Beauty’) and blueberry bushes in containers, the latter needing a peat based compost (or a mix of coir compost which is more environmentally sustainable).
Fruit trees and bushes can be obtained from specialist suppliers such as Ken Muir Nurseries – T: 01255 830181 www.kenmuir.co.uk or www.gardeningexpress.co.uk (check out the section on trees for containers).
Houseplants need attention; they have had months of low light levels, and fluctuating temperatures as heating is turned up – and down. Check to see they have not been attacked by any pests such as scale insect (Orchids are especially susceptible); these curious small, spot-like brown bumps appear on leaves and stems.
They are sap sucking insects and an infestation will over time severely weaken the plant; scale cause stickiness on foliage and generally on surfaces around the plant. The best way to remove scale is to moisten a paper towel with warm water and very gently rub the scale off stems, leaves and flowers.
These bugs are easy to remove – but new ones tend to reappear out of nowhere. Repeat removal process as necessary. (Also clean the stickiness from foliage). Increase watering, but keep houseplants on the dry side – especially succulents and cacti (making sure the compost dries out thoroughly between each watering) until light levels increase at the end of March.