In February, the garden is showing signs of coming back to life after the winter. Bright yellow daffodils spring from the ground to give a shock of colour. However there is more coming to life and to enjoy than the early spring narcissus.
This miniature narcissus bulb comes very highly recommended by all the specialist bulb growers. It has tiny golden trumpets above attractive, neat, greyish green leaves. It grows up to about four inches and flowers very early – usually in February or March. As it is so adaptable, ‘Midget’ may be naturalised in grass, or grown in borders, troughs, or pots. As with all daffodils, it is a good idea to deadhead it as the flowers fade, and allow the leaves to die back for at least six weeks before removing them. Remember, when planting outside, that manure or fertiliser containing an excess of nitrogen should be avoided. I think ‘Midget’ would make a wonderful partner for scillas or chionodoxas.
Propagation: Separate and replant offsets as the leaves fade in late spring.
Helleborus x stemii
Sometimes a plant is bewitching, and this enchanting hellebore is certainly no exception. As its parents are H. argutifolius and H. lividus, it has the distinction of being a born aristocrat with pretty leaves and flowers. Its leaves, from four to eleven inches long, are pleasingly marked with pinkish purple and cream veining, and are carried on pale purple leaf stalks. The charming, one to two inch flowers are creamy green suffused with pinkish purple strands, and appear as many flowered cymes from late winter to mid-spring. This hellebore grows to about twelve inches, with a similar spread, and should be grown in neutral or alkaline, humus rich, moist, but not waterlogged, soil. It is a good idea to protect it from strong cold winds.
Propagation: Divide after flowering.
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
Clematises that start flowering early in the year when there is a dearth of climbers in flower are particularly attractive. This one is a great favourite, with its delicate fern like foliage and heavenly, two inch, open, cup shaped, creamy pink flowers speckled with red, just like freckles. It is fully hardy, but not an overpowering grower, seldom growing taller than about twelve feet, and it shouldn’t need to be pruned. Like all clematises, it should be grown in fertile, humus rich, but well draining, soil in sun or partial shade, but with its roots and base kept in shade to keep them cool.
Propagation: Root softwood cuttings in spring or semi-ripe cuttings in early summer. Layer in late winter or early spring.
Snake bark maples are some of the aristocrats of the deciduous tree world, and this one is no exception. With its white and jade green striped young boughs, it is a fine tree for a woodland edge or a wild garden, where its bark can be enjoyed all year. Its obovate leaves turn a pleasing, rich yellow in the autumn, so it is a good idea to shelter it from cold winds to encourage the leaves to hang on as long as possible. Pendant panicles of greenish yellow flowers appear from mid-spring. It will reach 40 feet by 30 foot at maturity, and should be grown in fertile, moist but well drained soil, in sun or partial shade.
Visit What Plant to see what other plants can add to a garden in February.