Ursula's Cambridge Garden

Freelance gardener, plantswoman and garden-designer writing from my small urban garden in a great city


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The Great February tidy up

Snowdrops for Twitter

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

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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…

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

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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…

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

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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.

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

 

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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…

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

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

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God rest you merry, gardeners

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And so this is Christmas…

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Well, I’ve been away from my blog for quite a while, very remiss I know, and obviously my first New Year’s Resolution of 2015 will be to post more regularly, on the first of each month ideally.

But first to fill you in on some developments…

In October there was a lot of bulb planting in my garden – especially tulips in assorted creams, whites, purples and lilacs.  I have always wanted to grow Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ so finally got around to planting that little gem of cream and green delight for next spring.

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Euphorbia characias wulfenii  was moved from my front garden to the back garden, as I had stupidly planted three in the front, where one was far big enough by itself.  The removed one is looking happy enough in its new home and helps fill out my south-facing back garden border.

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I had a bumper crop of figs – I actually ate about twenty of my own home-grown figs for the first time ever.  They tasted great (Brown Turkey) and looked rather lovely too.

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And the Quince tree performed very well as well.

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I am looking forward to my new Sarcococco ruscifolia ‘Dragon Gate’ doing its thing in January with the lovely cheering scent I have been reading about – newly planted at my front door.  A variety selected by the great Roy Lancaster on his travels.

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Merry Christmas and a very Happy gardening 2015.