Make It A Fragrant February

IF your garden is in a mild location in the UK then snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils will begin to show their heads around now … but beware,

February can be one of the coldest months of the year - weather can fluctuate from bright sunny days to ones of extreme cold and frost. For the best of both worlds have a go at introducing a fragrant flowering bulb first, as a house plant and then towards the end of the month, as a bedding or container plant in the garden.

Bulbs can provide the most wonderful scent in the home and in the garden, yet many people overlook the benefits plants in general can have on their health and wellbeing. Simple garden plants have been used in medicine, beauty and perfumery for thousands of years, such as hyacinth to lift your mood (PlantforLife Nature’s Remedy a guide to growing a scentsational garden). In the Victorian language of flowers the Hyacinth flower symbolised sport or play and the blue hyacinth signifies sincerity. Their scent is perfect for lifting your mood during the cold, Winter months particularly as they make great houseplants if you can’t wait for them to flower out in the garden. If you do plant them out in the garden (round about October time) then they are better in groups rather than straight rows and letting the plant die back naturally means it will flower year after year.

Hyacinths thrive on well drained soil, as does another favourite at this time of year, Heather. Often described as the ultimate evergreen ground cover shrubs, Heathers are very versatile and are just at home and easily grown in containers and baskets. They are also very hardy, but can be fussy about the soil they grow in. Before you can decide which Heather to grow you will need to know the alkalinity of your soil because there are some varieties that require acid soil conditions to thrive. Plants in the Heather family (Erica) flower from November through to March and there is a wide range to choose from in foliage and flower colouring. A Heather bed should be positioned in full sun, away from deciduous trees and, if possible, sited so that the main view is from the South as foliage heathers always colour better on their Southern side. Heathers can be mixed well with companion plants and bulbs like snowdrops and they can be combined with crocus and miniature daffodils when planted in baskets and containers.

Late winter or early spring is when most plants are pruned. Roses shrubs and fruit trees can be pruned once the worst of the winter is gone – make sure the frost is over with. Roses love a good prune, so don’t be nervous. Rules of engagement when it comes to pruning roses … remove stems that are thinner than a pencil, cut cleanly at an angle and prune just above an outward facing bud if possible. Try to ensure that you have a good pair of secateurs (time to use those National Garden Gift Vouchers on a new pair if yours have seen better days) and if you are pruning bushes make sure they are balanced in shape and even in height.