Our gardens are showing definite signs of spring as we go into the second month of the year.

Mornings are a little lighter, evenings a little longer and plants are responding accordingly despite frosty starts and icy soil. This gives just a bit more opportunity to step outside even if it is just to see what is happening.

February sees evergreen euphorbias begin their ascent into flower. I count these wonderful garden plants among my favourites and have a group living in a well-drained sunny spot near the house.

Portuguese Velvet, Humpty Dumpty, Black Bird and Ascot rainbow delight in the sandy soil and shelter of the warm wall behind them and have, in their own ways, made the spot their own.

The two former are large plants with numerous stems that will eventually bear their clusters of lime green flowers in spring. Humpty Dumpty is to be honest a bit of a thug and was expected to outgrow its space and dominate its fellows.

However, the apparently tender Portuguese Velvet has proved to be hardier than expected and has happily dealt with the past four winters.

This is a lovely shrubby perennial with soft furred leaves bejewelled with droplets of dew or melted frost on a winter’s day.

Ascot Rainbow and Black Bird are smaller and although dominated by their fellows still manage to peep through at a lower level. The former has colourful cream, pink and green foliage while the darker leaves of the latter offer a good contrast in hue.

February Jobs

Much can be achieved in a short time in the garden so weather permitting here are a few of the tasks that can be tackled this month.

Pruning can begin both in the flower garden and veg patch. Cut autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground as new growth will carry this year’s crop. New shoots may not yet be appearing but rest assured they will. If the stand of plants is a few seasons old, leave a couple of stems unpruned as Which? Gardening found that these tend to carry larger fruit. I tried this last year and it worked.

In the flower garden, buddleia can be pruned back as hard as is needed. These tough shrubs respond very well to pruning and even the most overgrown specimen seems little effected by the removal of a large amount of growth. Just reduce the growth to within two or three buds making the cut just above an outward facing one.

Summe- flowering clematis can also be pruned this month. The thin twiggy stems are probably already beginning to show signs of growth and can have all stems cut away above 30 or 40 centimetres or so.

This can be a time-consuming job but worth the effort as it stops the plants from getting top heavy.

Cut just above a juicy new bud or shoot and lift away all the unwanted stems and provide support for the new growth which will get going within the next month or so.

Autumn flowering clematis can be treated more harshly with stems taken back as far as the lowest bud. Avoid pruning spring flowering clematis at this point. They are done after flowering in May or June.

Seed Potatoes

Seed potatoes begin to fill the shelves in garden centres and nurseries this month and as this is a popular product to grow in veg plots and allotments there is likely to be a wide range to choose from.

If the choice is confusing or you are new to vegetable growing it might be useful to go to a local Potato Day event. Potato Days are held around the country in January and February and are ideal to visit for advice on varieties as well as to buy seed potatoes.

The nearest I have managed to find in our area is at Shipley College in Saltaire. Organised by West Yorkshire Organic Group it will be held on Saturday February 14 from 10am-2pm. More details on wyog.org

Gardening Talk

Askham Bryan College Gardening Club will host a talk on sweet peas at their February meeting on Tuesday at Askham Bryan College, YO23 3FR. The illustrated lecture entitled Sweet Peas at Kew will be given by David Matthewman of Matthewman’s Sweet Peas, Thorpe Audlin in West Yorkshire.

David trained at Kew Gardens, where he has grown and shown sweet peas for more than 40 years, winning 13 consecutive gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The meeting will be held at the Conference Hall at the college and begin at 7.30pm. Tickets are free to Askham Bryan College Gardening Club members and £5 on the door for visitors. Complimentary teas and coffees will be served after the talk and there is plenty of nearby free parking.

Further details from David Whiteman, publicity officer, 01904 707208.

TV and radio


6.20am, BBC2, Great British Garden Revival. Rhododendrons and carnations are in the spotlight this week.

7.20am, BBC2, Glorious Gardens from Above. Christine Walkden takes the hot air balloon over Staffordshire.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From west Scotland with chairman Eric Robson and his team of horticultural experts.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Chris Beardshaw, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank answer questions from an audience in Baslow, Derbyshire. The chairman is Eric Robson.