February blossoms of the Japanese apricot's, Prunus mume.
Garden Chores for February
In This Issue
10. Winter Pruning
11. What to Prune Now
12. Seed Starting Success
13. Sowing Seeds Outdoors
14. Warming the Soil
15. Controlling Insects & Diseases
16. Stored Tuberous Begonias & Dahlias
17. Geraniums & Other Overwintered Plants
18. February Flower Arrangement
19. Plant of the Month: snowdrops
20. You Tube Video: How to Divide Dahlias
Hello Fellow Gardeners,
If your garden is still under snow, you may find that this month’s garden chores irrelevant, however in the Pacific Northwest, spring is nudging its way into our gardens. The return of the sun, combined with the mild temperatures of coastal British Columbia, often results in trees and shrubs sporting their new growth too early – after all, it’s still winter. As the weather has its way with us, there’s not much we can do, other than keeping an eye on it and covering plants where possible.
But February is not all about fickle weather, it is about sowing seeds indoors for those that dare to do the dirty deed. It’s an uncontrollable urge. The anticipation of waiting for seedlings to burst out of the soil never disappoints. It’s such an uplifting and powerful experience.
The weather outside is irrelevant when it comes to sowing seeds indoors. No matter what’s happening outside, whether it be a blizzard, hail, sleet, snow or torrential rain - the act of sowing seeds seems to make winter fade away and spring seems ever so much closer – yay!
If, by chance, your experience with sowing seeds indoors has been less than stellar, fear not! I have some tips and techniques that I have learned over the years to help you out. I have had successes – sure enough, but I have experienced failure too. So give it a go and good luck.
It’s better than shovelling snow.
February PLANT COMBO
Snowdrops and holly fern merge gracefully together at the edge wooded garden surrounded by autumn foliage dropped from the nearby trees. Both the holly fern and snowdrops prefer moist, organic soil that drains freely and are are doing well together in this partially shaded location.
The holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) stays green throughout the year where winter's are mild. It's deep green, stiff, glossy fronds are perfect for containers as well as a ground cover and in shade gardens. It's hardy from USDA Zone 6 to 10.
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are an old fashioned and reliable spring flowering bulb that do well in full sun to partial shade. They do well under deciduous trees as they adapt from full sun during early spring to partial shade as the trees leaf out. Their foliage naturally dies back in late spring as the bulbs goes dormant. Snowdrops multiply by seeds and bulb offsets making them perfect to naturalize in woodland gardens. They prefer cool climates, USDA Zones 3 to 7, and are short lived when grown in warmer climates. For more information click on
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Prepare for the upcoming gardening year with a consultation with Amanda. Book an appointment for a consultation here.
Classroom session in morning followed by pruning session in the afternoon. Saturday, Feb 12 2022, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, Credo Christian High School 21846 52 Ave Langley. To more information and to register click on Pruning Class
February Garden Stars
This landscape fabric is causing more harm than good. It was used to prevent weeds from growing, however, as you can see, it didn't work. Wind deposits soil and seed, whilst bird droppings add to the mix. Weeds will grow even in a scant amount of soil.
But this doesn't explain why the rhododendron and accompanying plants are so weak and malnourished. Blame it on the landscape fabric. The fabric stops organisms, including earthworms, from turning organic matter within the soil and the mulch on top of the soil into food for the plants.
The solution is to remove all the landscape fabric then mix in at least a couple of inches of compost, SeaSoil, triple mix or composted manure into the existing soil. Then add 3 inches of an organic mulch such as chipped wood chips. For more on mulch click here.
Seed Starting Success
Seed & Plant Catalogues: Order now. Click here for the link to catalogues for Canadian gardeners.
It’s relatively easy to grow plants from seed, however, it’s can be a challenge to keep them healthy and vigorous.
Sow the following seeds indoors now to plant outside in February, March & April:
veg: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collards, kale, leeks, lettuce, Swiss chard, fennel, leek, onions, parsley, artichoke
flowers: pansies, columbine, sea holly, Joe-Pye weed, lobelia, sweet peas
Sow the following seeds indoors now to plant outside in mid April at the earliest:
veg: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, strawberries
herbs: basil, cilantro, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme
flowers: hollyhocks, delphinium, English daisy, gaillardia, snapdragons, cone flower, black-eyed-Susan, foxglove, globe thistle, sunflowers, violets, zinnias, coleus, wax begonia, petunias
For more information on how to set up your seed starting station check out Growing Seeds Indoors.
Sowing Seeds OUtdoors
Sow cool season crops when a handful of soil doesn’t drip water when squeezed and soil temperature is around 10 °C (50°F). Check seed packets for instructions on when and how to plant.
Suitable crops to plant outside now are: peas, celeriac, spinach, leeks, lettuce, cauliflower, onions, cabbage, kale and chard. If slugs, snails and cutworms are a problem in your garden, you can start them inside. For more information on sowing seeds outdoors (direct seeding) click here.
Should you Prune your Clematis? Clematis don't need to be pruned to flower, but many need taming. When to prune depends on the type of clematis and whether it flowers on new or old stems. Click here for more.
What to Prune Now
The following are some info on how to prune specific plants.
Butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.): Cut back stems to 6 to 18 inches in height. Vary the height of the branches to vary the flowering pattern.
Wisteria: Prune all side shoots to 2 to 3 buds.
Grapes: Prune all side shoots to 2 to 3 buds. Click here for details. For a Youtube video click on Winter Grape Pruning
Red twig dogwood shrubs: Replenish red stems by removing the old, non-red stems at their base.
Prune summer and autumn flowering plants: Butterfly bush (Buddleia sp), Rose of Sharon, potentilla, crepe myrtle, hydrangeas, oak, linden, ash (Fraxinus).
Broadleaf Evergreens: Prune holly, boxwood and mahonia in early spring before they put on new growth.
Conifers (pines, spruce, firs etc.): Very little, if any is needed, just remove errant branches. Don’t cut beyond the green portions of the branches.
Avoid Bleeders: Don’t prune elms, maples, dogwoods, birches as they will ‘bleed’ sap. They are also more disease prone if they are pruned when dormant. Prune in summer.
Apple & Pear Trees: Prune now while they are dormant. Note that winter pruning will remove flowers, therefore you will reduce this year's harvest.
Heather: Cut back winter heath (Erica carnea) once flowering has ceased. Avoid cutting back into the old, woody growth.
Ornamental Grasses: Cut back ornamental grasses to the ground to make way for new growth.
Hire Certified Arborists: When looking for professional help, make sure they are certified by the International Society of Arborists (ISA). Check their previous pruning jobs. Any professional pruning company will not top trees.
If pruning your own plants seems a bit daunting, and you don't know where to start, Amanda will show you how. Take the fear and uncertainty out of pruning and gain confidence. Your garden will thank you. For more information and to register click here.
Warm The Soil
Warm Soil: If you want to warm up the soil to plant, place a cloche over the bed. A cloche is like a mini greenhouse that’s placed on top of veggie beds. Not only do they warm the soil, they protect any plants, including seeds, from light frosts and from flying insects such as carrot rust fly, cabbage moth and leaf miner. Cloches are easily made with wire hoops, PVC, hula hoops and covered with spun bonded polyester (Remay) that allows air and water through. To learn more click on Plant Pests Part 2 - Controlling Insects
Kill Insects & Diseases Now
Apply dormant oil & lime sulfur combo before leaves and flowers appear. Dormant oil kits are available at garden centers and home hardware stores. Certain conditions are needed to apply. To learn more click on Dormant Oil/Lime Sulfur
February Garden Chores
Garden Inspections: Even though gardens are not bursting with activity this month, it sure is a good idea to do a walk about to make sure all is well. This is especially prudent to do after a storm, strong winds, sleet, hail, and torrential rain.
Soil Heaving: When soil expands and contracts due to cold nights followed by warm days, roots become dislodged. Inspect plants, especially bulbs, as they are prone to rise out of the ground. If that’s the case firm the plant and bulbs back into the soil with a gentle push.
Frost Protection: Freezing temperatures often injure tender and early flowering plants such as camellias and dogwoods. Watch for severe frost, especially at night. Protect vulnerable plants with layers of burlap, old sheets, frost blankets or other breathable fabric.
Frost: Avoid touching and walking on plants when they are frozen as they are brittle and will break, this includes walking on lawns.
Icy Paths & Driveways: To avoid injuring lawns, plants and contaminating soil, don’t use salt to de-ice hard surfaces. Use sand or a green alternative that is non-toxic to plants, soil and animals.
Lawns: If the soil is too cold and too wet wait until March for aerating, liming and top dressing lawns with compost. It is way too early to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer (the first number on fertilizer labels) as frost will damage any new growth.
Lawn Mowers: Prepare mowers by servicing them and don’t forget to sharpen and clean the mower blades.
Winter Mulch Removal: Gradually remove winter mulches (fall leaves, straw, soil etc) as temperatures warm and plants start to grow.
No Mulch? If you have bare soil without ground covers or a mulch, consider adding a 3 inch layer of leaves, straw, wood chips and other organic mulches, but don’t do it now. Wait until the ground warms up and weeds start to grow. To learn more about mulches click here.
Horsetails: Persistence pays off when dealing with this invasive weed. Digging only spreads it even more, so just pull it out of the ground as soon as it appears. Be diligent. For more information click here.
Dandelions: Dig down and remove them asap before they go into flower and spread their seeds.
Weed: Get them while they are still weak. If you see their seedlings popping up, use a hoe or cultivator to dislodge them.
Kill Weed Seeds: Apply corn gluten meal to kill weed seeds in lawns and beds before they germinate. It’s an organic product that contains nitrogen, but it also kills germinating seeds. Don’t apply to areas where you have sown desirable seeds.
When to plant: The soil is ready for planting when you squeeze a handful and it doesn’t drip water. Actively growing weeds is another good sign. Soil temperature should be at least 10 °C (50°F). When conditions are suitable sow cool season crops such as broad beans, kohlrabi, onions, shallots, lettuce, spinach, radishes and peas. It’s also a good time to plant roses, trees, shrubs, raspberries, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, and asparagus crowns.
Bare-root trees & shrubs: Don’t ever let the roots dry out! As soon as possible, place bare-root plants in a bucket of lukewarm water and transplanting fertilizers. Allow to soak for 8 to 12 hours. Plant in their permanent location and use the remaining water/transplant solution to water them in. For more on how to plant click on Planting Know-How
Plant Flowers: If the ground isn’t frozen, covered with snow or sopping wet, plant some spring bloomers: pansies, primroses, hellebores, potted flowering spring bulbs in garden beds and planters. Check your local nurseries for their floral selection.
Winter Pansies: Remove spent flowers to prolong their flowering. If they are leggy, just cut them back a few inches.
Dead plants? Or are they? Winter isn’t over, so wait before tossing plants. Oftentimes, although the plant may appear dead, the roots may very well be still alive. The thermal heat of the earth keeps plant roots warm however if they haven’t sported new growth by mid-March, then it is time to toss them.
Cuttings: Take hardwood cuttings from your favorite shrubs and trees. To learn more click here.
Gutters, Drains & Catch Basins: To prevent flooding remove debris to allow water to drain more freely.
Clean Tools Etc.: Get ready for spring by cleaning and disinfecting used pots, drainage trays, label and all surfaces in the greenhouse. While you’re at it, clean and sharpen all tools.
Plan: Refer to last year’s garden journal and any photos so you can start planning veggie garden etc.
Stored Tuberous Begonias: Check on them to make sure they are intact and healthy. Discard rotten ones and shrivelled dead ones. If they have started to sprout, repot and add a slow release granular fertilizer, water and place in a sunny window. Don’t place outside until all the danger of frost has passed. For more on tuberous begonias click here.
Stored Dahlias: You don’t have to wait until May to plant dahlias. For early flowering, plant tubers in pots now - especially if they have already sprouted. To learn more about growing dahlias, the different flower types, staking, how to store them over winter, check out the article on Dahlias. For a video on how to divide dahlias, click on Dividing Dahlias
Geraniums & Overwintered Tender Plants
As soon as geraniums and other stored plants start to sport new growth it’s time to clean, trim and repot them.
Hellebores, winter heath, Oregon grape holly and witch hazel flowers are surrounded by rose hips, wintercreeper, douglas fir corkscrew hazel and autumn fern. For a numbered guide to the specific flower names and for other arrangements go to Monthly Flower Arrangements
February's Plant of the month
Common Name: snowdrop
Botanical Name: Galanthus nivalis
Form: upright arching
Genus: Galanthus (milk+flower)
Species: nivalis (of the snow)
Plant Type: spring flowering perennial bulb
Mature Size: up to 12 inches
Origin: Europe, Southwest Asia
Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7
Foliage: strap-like, glossy, deep green, emerge from the bulb with no stems
Flowers: blossoms Feb/March, white nodding, three outer tepals (petals joined together) in a whorl surrounding 3 inner tepals. The inner tepals bear a green V shaped marking.
Fruit: green pods that age to yellow with many tiny seeds
Exposure: sun to part shade
Soil: prefers moist, humusy well-drained
Uses: mass in edges of woodlands, mixed borders, along paths, rockeries, hedgerows, under deciduous trees, planters
Propagation: seeds and bulblets
Pruning: allow leaves to yellow, don’t cut them off when green
Problems: no diseases or insects, wear gloves when planting bulbs as they sometimes cause skin irritation, all parts are poisonous if ingested
This pretty and modest bulb is often touted as a harbinger to spring, and rightly so, as it is one of the earliest to flower. Their narrow, green, strap-like leaves emerge out of the ground as early as January in temperate locations, and by February they are in full flower often extending into March.
Like drops of snow, their pristine white flowers nod to protect their seemingly delicate blossoms. Flowers are comprised of three outer petals that are fused together and form a whorl surrounding the shorter inner tepal. The inner tepal bears a distinctive green V marking.
Galanthus nivalis is a versatile plant and it is suitable to plant under deciduous trees. In the early spring it enjoys the full sun under a leafless canopy. Then as the trees leaf out, they benefit from the partial shade. By summer, the leaves have yellowed and disappeared as the bulb goes into dormancy. It’s important not to remove their green leaves as they provide food for next year’s flowers.
Snowdrops procreate readily. They produce seeds and the bulbs produce offsets, called bulblets. They are not considered to be invasive despite their reproduction capabilities, however, they form large colonies and are perfect for naturalizing in woodlands, meadows and other non-formal plantings.
Galanthus nivalis are obviously cold hardy, however, when grown in ASDA growing zones higher than 7, it is short lived and does not naturalize.
For a pleasing display plant bulbs together in groups of 25. Space them 2 to 3 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches deep in autumn. Bulbs are sold in packages anywhere spring flowering bulbs are sold. Allow leaves to yellow naturally; do not remove them as it deprives them of food, which diminishes their health.
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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