Ursula's Cambridge Garden

Professional gardener and plantswoman writing from my small urban garden in a great city

The Great February tidy up


Snowdrops for Twitter

Galanthus nivali

A very belated happy New (old) Year to you all!


If you are a fan of autumn grasses and leaving all plants to show of their winter skeletons  (a new philosophy which has subtley effected many gardeners over the past decade – meaning you leave everything to treasure the effects of shrubs and perennials right through the winter, even in their death-throws!) – then your big moment for clearing up in the garden – in fact the most important of the whole year – is now in early February.

Ornamental grasses in particular follow this pattern – a big cut back in February, lovely new growth in Spring/early Summer – spectacular seed heads in Summer/Autumn, lovely architectural skeletons throughout the winter.  This is their month to be dormant waiting  to start all over again – and for things like Stipa and Miscanthus a really severe cut back kick-starts them back to life with a vengence.  Equally if you want to see all your lovely spring bulbs you necessarily have to finally clear away the now spent detritis before its too late.

So my big cut back was on 3 February.  This is the view from my sitting room in August last year in high summer…


And this is the same view when I had finished the great five-hour tidy up!


So that’s the contrast between high summer and the verge of spring now with all the tulip bulbs beginning to show  and the new leaves of emergent perennials.  A very satisfying if delicate days work, as one has to be very careful not to sweep away or damage something that is on its way back to life.  I think this is a good way to garden – rather than emptying the garden of everything in October and looking at bare soil for four months, which can be depressing and wastes so much of what late autumn plants have to offer.

Here new bearded iris growth is revealed, and the rhizomes get a chance for maximum baking in the spring/early summer sunshine for best flowering…


And this is the whole tidy effect from my balcony at the end of the task!


2016 has been very stormy in my neck of the woods but not desperately cold at any point yet, except for one harsh week or two.  And there has been plenty of rain – the bamboos have loved that, as have my Hellebores – I planted eight new plants last year and they’re really settling  in now, as are the ones my mother gave me several years ago.





Also the Euphorbias seem to have survived flowering too early in December and are just powering on



And last, but not least, of course, this is the month of the snowdrop – and the month to divide and re-plant your stocks to get more drifts.  Snowdrops only like to be planted ‘in the green’ so February is the month for purchasing snowdrops.  Never plant dry bulbs of snowdrops.  I have been getting more into this wonderful genus – I have just read a lovely little publication by Jackie Murray called simply ‘Snowdrops’ – a very concise guide, in which the author’s enthusiasm is quite infectious.  I don’t think I will ever be a fanatic (otherwise known as a ‘Galanthophile’) but I would certainly like to increase the range of varieties I grow.

These are some double ones in my garden…


and some rather perfect ones looking poised in bud, in my Mother’s garden…


Happy gardening to you all and a happy and healthy Springtime ahead.

6 thoughts on “The Great February tidy up

  1. Thank you ursula for getting us started.Just back from St.Vincent and the contrast in weather is exorable.Captain Bligh planted the first Breadfruit tree at the botanical gardens in 1763 and now they cover the island.The fruit i am told is best eaten baked but the hotel had no idea.There was a good article in the Garden RHS in dec on a jungle garden in the centre of the island but getting there on the road is another adventure.Life was adorably simple there boat ,beach,barbeque,book,and very brown.Now back to Blighty with its mismatch of weather,politics,and uncle Tom Cobley.Walsingham best place for snowdrops the monks or nuns spent their waking hours planting them i think.My apricot tree is in full bloom since xmas perhaps i can plant breadfruit Cheers Wayne

    • Dear Wayne
      Thanks for reading and commenting as ever. Sounds like you had a really wonderful time away. Yes Walsingham gardens were wonderful when we visited a few years ago. Best regards for a rewarding gardening spring, Ursula

  2. I am very late in clearing my garden this year though I did have a partial clear up in November 2015 as I cannot face it all in February. We are about to cover the garden in compost so I must get some final clearing done first.The Hellibores are amazing this year, since they started powering away in December. I am encouraged by your magnificent snowdrop photographs to order some “in the green” now and maybe add a few more aconites in the round bed – they are so effortless. Your blog is a great inspiration Ursula for what can be achieved.
    Love Mum.

  3. I love seeing all those February flowers in your garden. Normally, spring clean-up in my much harsher Maine climate comes in April. But this winter has been so mild and our snow is melting so quickly that it looks like late March and I’m tempted to get out and start cleaning up. I think I’d better wait a bit, though.

    • Dear Jean thanks for reading and commenting as ever – good to hear from you so far away! Its good to be powering towards Spring even if you are not quite there yet – always feels more positive! Kind regards and happy gardening, Ursula

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