I just love February blooms but this year it has been difficult to find a chance to get out and enjoy them with constant winds and Biblical downpours of rain. I am a year- round gardener and wouldn’t dream of hanging up my spade for winter, but this year I have had to duck and dive and admit defeat on countless occasions. But never mind, you can have a look at some of my favourite February blooms from the comfort of your chair and that is the best place to be today.
The most eye catching plant in my February garden is the wonderful Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume. It actually comes from China, but it is highly prized in Japan where many varieties are available. I don’t know why it isn’t seen more often here because it is hardy and blooms for weeks starting as early as January. The flowers of ‘Beni-chi-dori’ which means ‘Flights of Red Plovers’ are the deepest pink and have a sweet almondy smell. The tree grows to about 8 ft, mine hasn’t quite reached this yet, but after 8 years it is a good size.
I searched for the beautiful white form for several years after falling in love with it in Cambridge Botanical Garden. I found one a couple of years ago and it is now a wonderful sight in February. It is quite compact and smothered in white, sweetly scented blooms. It is called ‘Omi-No-Mama’ which means ‘Memories of Mother’. Well, I think it does, Graham Stuart Thomas wrote in his book. ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’ that it means ‘To have its own Way’ and this is because it sometimes throws up a rosy pink flower. I would love to have a little copse of these fabulous trees in my woodland garden but they are expensive to buy. The white one seems to be quite rare. Other blossom trees are coming into bloom now but these are very early as they start flowering in January and they get better and better as February goes by.
The Cornelian Cherry tree, Cornus mas bears clusters of starry yellow flowers in February. It can grow to about 12 feet, in fact I had a huge one in my previous garden which was a wonderful sight against a blue winter sky. It used to bear fruit in abundance and I regret that I did not then know that the fruit is edible. When ripe they taste a bit like cherries. Quite often seedlings used to appear. This one is one of those seedlings, it is about 5 ft high now and it has taken a few years to bloom well.
I have an early flowering camellia in the garden. I wish I could remember its name but this is one that I had in a pot for years and then planted out even though I don’t have an acid soil which it prefers. To my surprise it is flourishing with healthy green leaves even after several years in the ground. Plants don’t always obey the rules. The flowers are double and a delicate shade of pink.
In a pot in the greenhouse I have a little Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’. I bought this because I had seen it on PBM garden blog. Susie’s ‘Yuletide’ always seems to bloom for Christmas as its name suggests and as she is the most amazing flower arranger it always looks wonderful in her vases. I have had to wait until February for a few blooms on mine. I think it needs a very sheltered spot here so I don’t think I will risk it outside.
Another calcifuge, ( acid-loving plant) is the rhododendron. I told a neighbour that she can’t possibly grow rhododendrons in her garden here. She confounded me by saying that she can and does. Anyway, I am not going to risk my pretty Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ in the ground and it looks lovely in a pot. Rhododendrons have compact root balls so you could probably get away with planting them in masses of ericaceous compost for a year or two, but I don’ think it would work long term. Despite its name this never blooms at Christmas.
As Shakespeare said ‘Daffodils take the winds of March with beauty‘ but this year they are very early and the winds of February are flattening the taller ones. A pretty one which is always early is ‘Spring Dawn’ . It is not too tall and so copes quite well with the wind. I love it for its twisted petals and frilly yellow coronas.
The ever-popular dwarf Narcissus ‘Tête-a Tête’ is not bothered by the wind at all. It is lovely in pots but if you plant it out it will make nice big clumps.
One of my favourite daffodils is the native one Narcissus pseudonarcissus, this is the one which inspired Wordsworth’s poem. It seeds around happily and looks lovely with primroses.
Safe from the storms in the greenhouse I have a few pots of delightful little daffodils. Narcissus ‘Snow Baby’ is a darling miniature with perfectly formed white flowers.
Another white one is the hoop daffodil which is aptly named ‘Narcissus bulbodicum ‘White Petticoat’
I have a new Narcisssus bulbodicum this year and I love it. It is a hybrid bred in Holland. It is called Narcissus bulbodicum subsp. obesus ‘Diamond Ring’. It is the prettiest little daffodil and deliciously fragrant.
I love the early species crocuses; the little tommies, Crocus tommasianus which seed all over the garden are getting over now but they are a February delight, specially when the sun makes a rare appearance. If I plant new crocuses the squirrels watch me and dig them up but they don’t seem to notice the ones that are all ready there seeding about. I have given up planting them, I would like some different varieties but nature is doing a great job of spreading these little beauties around so I will content myself with them. They are a lovely shade of lilac and some of them are darker.
Now and then yellow ones crop up.
I have a few clumps of white ones.
Here and there I have some of the big, fat, shiny Dutch ones but I don’t love them as much.
Of course there are still plenty of snowdrops to enjoy. My addiction to snowdrops is even more out of control than my addiction to jugs so I will just select a random few today.
Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum vernum slowly make large clumps but they don’t spread as quickly as snowdrops. They have round flowers with six petals of even size so they look like little lamp shades. They grow on short stems unlike the confusingly named Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum. The pointed tips of the petals are green.
You can get a variety which has two flowers per stem. This is called Leucojum vernum var. Vagneri. The green mark is much more pronounced on this one.
There is a yellow-tipped one called Leucojum vernum ‘Carpathicum’.
I have my own variety which appeared in my garden which is pure white with no markings on the tips.
All over the garden I have groups of Leucojum aestivum but I have never planted it, they just appear themselves. The flowers are no bigger than those of Leucojum vernum and they aren’t the same pretty lamp shade shape. As they have such long stalks they are rather insignificant. Still they are quite pretty in a vase.
Little irises make colourful displays in February. Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’ is one of the reliable ones which comes back each year. This one has poked up through the encroaching heather.
The Algerian Iris, Iris unguicularis has been blooming for weeks but now it is joined by the Turkish Iris lazica which is very similar but with shiny leaves and even more blooms.
My last post was devoted to hellebores and you might think that I have nothing further to say about the subject. But this morning torrential rain kept me out of the garden and when I went to the local farm shop to buy some eggs I found another Rodney Davy hellebore just as I had been saying I would like a few more of these beauties. It just jumped into my basket when I wasn’t looking. The lovely thing about these hellebores is the beautiful marbled leaves. All my other hellebores have their leaves cut off in January as this displays the flowers better and the old leaves are liable to spread black Leaf Spot. But these beautiful leaves are part of the charm. So here is my latest beauty, Helleborus ‘Dorothy’s Dawn’.
Do join me with some of your February blooms. Spring is just round the corner and flowers are springing up everywhere.