Tips for instant colour in a February garden
Sadly, this is not my garden. I forgot to put my garden to bed at the end of last year and it’s in a bit of a sorry state now: a jungle of dead stalks, a thick layer of leaves turning to mulch (but that’s good, right?) and a few green shoots (could they be daffs?) poking up through the soil. I’ve got the secateurs set to chop down the jungle but I need colour in the garden and I need it now, so: what to plant for instant horticultural gratification?
The ‘secret gardens’ of Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet look amazing all year round, so I asked designer and plantsman Roger Saul, currently overseeing the replanting and redesign of the ‘secret gardens’ as well as preparations for a brand new garden nursery opening at Kilver Court in the Spring, for some tips. And here they are…
Roger Saul’s tips for instant colour in a February garden
Winter gardens are going to look dank and unloved, so getting some structure and winter interest is really key. You probably aren’t going to spend a huge amount of time in your garden, but you will look longing at it from the window and your mind will be frantically starting to plan, well mine is! So try and visit some of your favourite gardens be they friends or public to see what they look like now. January and February are planning and planting time.
Tulips, daffodils and other bulbs
Ideally, you’ll have planted herbaceous borders with tulips for colour drifts last November, perhaps polyanthus and definitely snowdrops like ‘Sam Arnott’ but if not, you can still buy pots of tulips, daffodils and other bulb varieties planted up from good garden nurseries to flower from now on. Put a big X on your diary for next September to buy bulbs.
Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) can be planted in moist but well-drained soil either in the open or under shrubs where they can catch the low angle of the sun. The yellow flowers are set in rosettes of deep green leaves and grow to only 4cm tall.
Iris reticulata cultivars have colours ranging from white to violet blue. Iris Reticulata ‘Joyce’ is a fine hybrid with sky blue flowers and a yellow blotch. Iris reticulata ‘Natasha’ is an outstanding ivory white. Plant Iris in full sun in any well-drained garden soil.
It’s not too late to start sowing sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) in pots now, or buy in small pots, which have been brought on. They need full sun or very light dappled shade and a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil when planted.
I can’t make my mind up yet about wallflowers, you can still buy these for immediate planting that have been grown on by nurseries and they give great colour for the spring. I’d prefer carefully flinging my favourite, fritillaria, in the long grass and they will be up shortly with this mild weather.
A final word
Try to buy plants when you see them and put them out where you think they will be best in season, that way you will understand proportionality, colour and size in the space you have.