Winter Gardening - Planting shrubs and trees, tending to snowdrops and colourful winter aconites

PUBLISHED: 18:36 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 20 February 2013

Dan Booth ready for work

Dan Booth ready for work

Dan Booth, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall, is hard at work in the garden planting shrubs and trees as well as tending to snowdrops and colourful winter aconites

February can be a funny old month in the garden. It has been known for unseasonably warm weather to wreak havoc with the flowering times of daffodils and tulips, but there is just as much chance we could be under 2ft of snow. This unpredictability in the weather can make garden planning challenging, but nevertheless there are still plenty of jobs you can do this month.

At Brodsworth Hall we are putting the finishing touches to our North Drive restoration project.

This includes planting of shrubs and specimen trees and the cultivation of the areas to be seeded with grass.

The seeding of the lawns will not take place until it warms up a little in March but it is a good idea to prepare the surface a good four weeks in advance. This allows the soil to settle back down and firm up after cultivation so we dont leave footprints when seeding. It also means that any low or high points can be levelled prior to seeding.

When planting trees and shrubs, especially in previously uncultivated ground, it is good practice to add some organic matter and/or fertiliser to the planting hole.

This provides a nutritious and balanced growing environment for the new plants, helping them to establish a healthy and extensive root network quickly.

Before planting, check the plant isnt root bound. If it is, gently tease out plenty of roots to encourage them to grow out rather than continually growing in a circle as they may have been doing in the pot.

You should always try to plant slightly lower than the surrounding soil so that when you back fill you can leave a well around the plant. This helps when watering as the water is contained around the planting hole by the well rather than it trickling away.

When planting larger trees at Brodsworth we always insert a perforated watering pipe around the root ball with the end just proud of the surface. This ensures that when we water we know it reaches all the way down to bottom of the planting hole.

A major feature of Brodsworth Gardens in February is the snowdrop display. There are over 500,000 of these dainty white flowers dotted throughout the garden often mixed with stunning yellow winter aconites.

As the first sign of spring they are a welcome sight to any gardener who has braved the winter and, whilst they arent native to our country, they have become a common sight in gardens, woodlands and hedgerows all over the country.

February is a good time to lift and divide clumps of snowdrops if you are looking to spread them further across your garden. Once dug out, the clumps can be divided with a pair of garden forks or by hand if the soil is fairly loose. These smaller clumps can then be replanted in the green as we say. You can also buy snowdrops in the green by mail order these days, along with bluebells and aconites to create an instantly colourful display from February to May.

If you missed out on dividing your herbaceous plants in the autumn, now is just as good a time to do it. This can be done either by chopping up the dug up clumps with a spade or by using a pair of garden forks back to back to lever apart the clump. Chopping with a spade is better for densely rooted plants such as Hosta, whereas you would use the forks for more loosely rooted plants such as Crocosmia. This method is gentler and shouldnt result in lots of useless little bits that the spade would smash off.

Ideally you are looking to create clumps around the size of your fist for replanting. Any smaller clumps or excess material can be potted up for future use or added to the compost heap.

Winter flowering plants in the border, such as Hellebores, can have their leaves cut back now which will help make the flowers more visible - vital at this not particularly floriferous time of year.

Toward the end of the month is a good time to check on any alpine plants you may have. Our Alpine beds contain 200 different plants some of which would struggle to make it through the British winter without regular maintenance. At this time of year it is worth removing any damaged or rotten parts of alpine plants and then giving the area around them a fresh coat of gravel. They will then look their absolute best come flowering in April and May and the gravel will help keep away any unwanted moisture.

Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian country house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature lovingly restored to their Victorian splendour.

For more information contact:
Brodsworth Hall & Gardens
01302 722598

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