What to see in the garden in February
A visit to Nymans at this time of year could hardly be complete without a wander down Winter Walk, taking in the fullness of the fragrance, the vivid and varied colours and range of fascinating shapes and textures.
Roses are spiky plants, in fact the moss roses and rugosas, which have thousands of tiny prickles (not thorns) are more bothersome than those with larger protective hooks.
Before pruning a rose we consider its position in the bed and establish a rough height - roses at the back of a border can be left taller. There are many types of rose and their requirements vary, but as a general rule, remove dead, diseased and damaged material and aim for a pleasing shape with a balance of shoots. Avoid crossing stems and keep some older wood for support.
Tom's tips: Stand back and assess the rose from where you think it will be viewed and trim low stems back from the path edges where they can be a nusiance. After pruning, we burn the clippings to help avoid any future fungal re-contamination, then feed, mulch heavily and tidy the edges of the beds.
As well as reducing long, whippy green shoots to about five or six leaves in July/August to encourage flower bud development, we also prune potential flowering spurs back to two or three buds in late January or February. You can see these short stubby spurs very clearly if you inspect one of the many wisterias growing here at Nymans, trained as they are in different ways: up a wall in the Forecourt, along the giant pergola beside the Croquet Lawn, up and over the Bookshop and as a surprisingly solid free-standing specimen beside the Potting Shed. Have a closer look to see how winter pruning reduces these abundantly lush summer giants back to bare-boned skeletons that possess a gnarled and twisted beauty of their own.
Snowdrops and snowflakes – how to tell them apart? These bulbous winter gems with their nodding bell-shaped flowers, appearing in delicate drifts like a faint dusting of snow, both belong to the same family of plants and yet are quite different in appearance. The snowflake (Leucojum vernum – meaning ‘white spring violet’) can be up to twice as tall as a snowdrop, with thicker more glossy leaves and flower heads tipped with green that resemble lanterns. The common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis – meaning ‘milk flower’) is on the whole much more delicate, with narrow leaves that are duller than the snowflake and flower heads more slender and perhaps even purer in their whiteness. In the Top Garden and Wall Garden at Nymans these two wandering woodlanders can be seen merging together in spreading pools of winter white.
February is the first flowering month for certain daffodils, and these familiar bulbous plants can be seen blooming in their various guises right up until early May. The early varieties include examples from the cyclamineus division (Group 6): these typically have petals that are swept gently back as well as a long trumpet-like corona. One of them, the bright yellow Narcissus ‘February Gold’, tends to defy its name by flowering in March but if you’re lucky you might see it this month growing as it does by the Dovecote; and there are smaller, more delicate species daffodils from this same group dotted about the garden.
February jobs in the garden
For a few days this month the garden team and volunteers will coppice hazel from Nymans woods to be used later as pea sticks in the garden, particularly on the Summer Borders to support the herbaceous perennials as they grow. We will also be working on path repairs and stone edging, as well as tree felling and bramble taming in the Wild Garden across the road. The Summer Borders are gradually being cut down to make way for the new growth in spring and if the weather allows we may also lift and divide some of the herbaceous perennials in the garden. On a more specific note, the late, large-flowered clematis (Pruning Group 3) – such as Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’ and Clematis ‘Gypsy Queen’ in the rose garden – will be pruned back to strong buds about a foot or two from the ground to encourage good growth and fine flowering later in the summer.