February in the Garden
1 Feb 2018

Chieveley Gardening Club on winter in the garden. Plus February garden activities for you. 

February is such an encouraging month with the days lengthening and some warmth in any sun. The garden is visibly coming to life and my meanderings around it are lightened by the sight of buds swelling, bulbs coming back from the dead and the first shoots beginning to rise from herbaceous clumps. There is all to play for; all to dream about.

The small bulbs are a major theme. Have we enough of them? Clusters and clumps of snowdrops, crocus and winter aconites bring you up short when you spot them in some unlikely shady spot, as if this is the first wholehearted evidence that winter is on the way out. When it comes to daffodils, I go for the little ones. Those with large leaves will remain an eyesore until June and their smothering leaves threaten more prestigious plants. The little ones, close to the species such as Narcissus cyclamineus or N. bulbocodium or our native Lent Lily, N. pseudonarcissus, are no problem. Their leaves are small and narrow and quickly disappear.

Two evergreens draw my attention at this time of year. The winter flowering box, Sarcococca (not Buxus) enraptures and woos me each year with its heady scent, welcoming postmen, paper-boy and Amazon deliverer alike to our back door. I wonder if they notice? In heavy shade by the front door we have a golden variegated Aucuba lightening a horrid dark corner. Aucubas can be super-dull residents of neglected municipal plantings clothed in dusty brown-edged leathery green leaves. Ours is brilliantly bright with a golden spattering over its shiny leaves. It thrives in one of those peculiar Air-Pots.

My main job in the garden is mulching the beds whilst they are still devoid of fresh growth. The compost heap is still full from the autumn clear up and this has rotted sufficiently to go on shrub, flower and vegetable beds alike building up goodness and adding nutrients to the soil. The gardening pundits will tell you that mulching smothers your weeds - good news. Ours, however, always seems to bring with it a healthy crop of fresh, new weeds and the mulch is soon covered by a healthy green mat - not such good news. Its saving grace is that as the soil improves and becomes more friable weeding and hoeing become easier - hooray. Maybe we just make rubbish compost! 

Happy Gardening, Giles Derry

Dates for your diary

Tuesday 13 February 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Ana Forbes is telling us about the River Kennet. The Kennet rises in Wiltshire, flows through Newbury and joins the Thames in Reading and for much of its length is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to the rare plants and animals unique to chalk watercourses. Come and learn more about this lovely haven for nature that is so close to us. For this meeting, nature-loving guests are welcome to join us for £2.

Tuesday 13 March 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Marcus Dancer is telling us 'How to grow Clematis successfully'. These gems seem to thrive for some of us and struggle and die for others. Not fair, you echo. The soil around here is perfect for clematis as you can see from the Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) in the hedgerows. Do join us. Guests and non-members (both £2) are always welcome.