I promised a look in the greenhouse for my next post but this will have to be postponed because this is not the sort of weather for lurking inside, outside wonderful things are happening. Incredible to think that last year at this time we were cowering from the Beast from the East. This year the thermal undies have been cast off and coats too and we are revelling in spring- like weather. Yesterday, we had lunch outside and I saw my first yellow Brimstone butterfly. Even more exciting, I recently saw two mad March hares having a boxing match. I used to think this was two males fighting over the ladies, but I have checked and it is actually the lady hare, sorry doe, fighting off the over- ardent advances of the male. I wish I had had my camera handy.
But back to the garden which is alive with buzzing bees and courting birds. I hope your February garden is delighting you, but if it is not very colourful, here are some ideas to fill the winter garden with beauty. My favourite February bloom is no secret, but I think I have spoken about it enough this year, probably too much for some people, so I will not mention the S word here, let’s take number one as read. On the other hand, perhaps I can be forgiven a very quick look at the rather odd Galanthus ‘Blewbury Tart’, and with that we will move quickly on.
Let’s have a look at another little white charmer, Leucojum vernum, sometimes called Spring Snowflake, though not by me, as I am a stickler for using Latin so that we are all on the same page. Anyway it looks nothing like a snowflake. It looks more like a little lampshade or a pixie hat if one is a little whimsical. It is absolutely delightful and the only reason that snowdrop addicts aren’t going crazy about it is because they are all the same and it is the little variations that we all go mad for.
But you can get one a little different where the tips of the petals are yellow instead of green. It is called Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum, sadly it has vanished from my garden, I suspect it fell victim to Narcissus fly. The female flies like to lay there eggs in the sun so these little beauties are best in the shade. They don’t spread very quickly so carpets are not easy to achieve. Leucojum vernum var. vagneri also has yellow tipped flowers and it has two flowers on each scape. It is taller than the other Leucojum vernum .
Actually I have just been out to look at my Leucojum vernum and I have found one clump with no coloured tips to the petals so they are not all the same.
The Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum also starts blooming now. It is not as attractive because the flowers are quite small and not such a pretty rounded shape and they have long stalks, but still it does seed about merrily and it is quite handy for a vase.
I have problems with crocuses, something eats the corms as fast as I plant them. I thought it was mice until I caught a squirrel in the act of eating the tulip bulbs I have in pots the other day. He waited until they had nice plump buds. But the mice are not without sin they ate all the crocuses in the greenhouse apart from the one I covered with a pane if glass. But I have carpets of sweet little Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus which seed everywhere and they are never touched. So I can’t complain. I am not very keen on the big fat, shiny Dutch crocuses anyway, but the delicate species crocuses are delightful and the pests that pounce on newly planted corms ignore these carpets. They come in a range of colours from the palest lilac to deep purple.
As well as crocuses there are little pools of jewel -like colour provided by small irises. I grow some in pots in the greenhouse so that I can enjoy them even earlier. In the garden some of the Iris reticulata don’t last very well, these are usually the ones with narrow petals. The chunkier Iris histrioides hybrids keep going longer and spread too. Good spreaders in my garden are the reliable Iris ”Harmony’.
The lovely sky blue ‘Sheila Anne Germaney’ has yellow markings and clumps up well.
Iris histrioides ‘Lady Beatrice Stanley’ is another favourite which just gets better each year.
When I finally take you into my February greenhouse I will show you some more of these adorable little irises.
My first daffodils appeared in early February. The very first is Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which sometimes blooms as early as January.
Another early one is Narcisssus ‘Spring Dawn’. It is delightful with a creamy white perianth surrounding a frilly yellow trumpet. You can see the bees like it as much as I do.
I have a few early scillas blooming in jewel like colours too. The first in bloom is the periwinkle blue Scilla ‘Spring Beauty’, soon I hope there will be carpets of tit.
And then there is the scilla with the ridiculously unpronouncable name. It looks just like a Puschkinia but it’s not.
There will be more lovely scillas next month.
Hellebores have been delighting me for weeks now. I am lucky that a previous owner loved them and planted them everywhere and they have seeded about so I have lots.
I have introduced some special ones too. There are ever more gorgeous hybrids but I am still fond of a very old variety which I brought from my old garden. It has huge pure white flowers with star shaped wavy petals. It is called ‘Petsamo’.
Some of the new doubles are dreamy.
I also love the anemone flowered ones.
Oh, I love them all and one of the joys of February is turning up their faces to look at them.
The winter flowering honeysuckle has been in bloom for weeks and gets better and better.
But now my rarer Lonicera elisae is in bloom at last. It gets going later but it is worth the wait.
Close up the flowers are tinged with pink and hairy.
I have been enjoying Witch Hazels for weeks now and the reds and oranges are over but the yellows are looking good.
My favourite yellow is ‘Arnold’s Promise’, it is the last Witch Hazel to bloom. It makes a nice vase shaped shrub and is full of spidery flowers.
I will finish with my two beautiful Japanese Apricots. The first has deep pink single flowers and has been in bloom for the whole of February. It is called Prunus mume ‘Beni- chidori’ which is Japanese for ‘The Flight of the Red Plovers’. A blossom tree in February is very special.
The second one Prunus mume ‘Omoi-no-mama’ has semi-double white flowers and it seems rather rare. I first saw it years ago at Cambridge Botanical gardens and have searched for it since. Last year I finally tracked it down. It had an unfortunate encounter with The Pianist mowing the lawn rather over-enthusiastically, but it seems to have survived and I have widened the border so I hope it will be safe in future. You never know though, the dear Pianist seems to mow the grass with his eyes closed.
So there we have it, the glorious blooms that are lifting my spirits this February, I hope you enjoyed them. Please join in and show your favourite February blooms. And I promise the greenhouse will make an appearance very soon.