Slowly, steadily, minute by minute, the days are getting longer. After a few dreary days, the following bright one highlights how those few extra minutes add up. Yesterday, it was 5.30pm when I came in from the garden - no wonder I was gasping for a cuppa & slice of cake!
And with increasing daylight, the world steadily moves towards Springtime. Birds are singing loudly today, establishing their territories, trying to impress a mate (note to self - need to clean out bird boxes). Snowdrops, Aconites, the first few Crocus & deliciously scented Daphne to enjoy. It all lifts my spirits no end.
A plant group of special interest just now are the Catkins. Hazel Catkins wiggle in the breeze plus the soft, tactile little 'Pussy Willow' Catkins appear. Haphazardly, I've gathered a small collection of Pussy willow in recent years. Cuttings of good silvers & a few of the black catkin variety (SalixGracistyla Melanostachys) given by a friend are growing happily but not quite ready to cut abundantly. The pink variety 'Mount Aso' is the star of the path through the meadow this week - like pink fluffy raspberries glued on long wand-like stems. A real beauty for adding to bouquets, alone in a simple vase or the garden. It's worth looking out for if you have space because it seems to be reliably earlier than my other Catkin varieties.
But beware the 'false Spring' - a few welcome days when a coat isn't needed means little, I'm glad to still have a good stack of logs for the woodburner. Although tempting to start sowing seeds or pruning roses, I'll hold off a little longer. The 'Beast from the East' of 2018 is fresh in my memory & a repeat could be damaging.
On dry days, I've begun the tidy up of perennial beds, clearing dead sticks, weeds & assessing damage from winter weather. These perennials are the main stay of our Flower Farm. Looked after, they deliver good volumes of quality stems reliably without too much labour, Most have fared the winter cold well & little tufts of new growth are appearing. Phew! Our neighbour reports temperatures of -12 degrees on several mornings in December, much lower than we would expect. There have been losses (all my Ammi & Cerinthe seedlings were zapped by cold in the polytunnel). My beds of Alstroemeria had looked dreadfully damaged. I feared the worst as they're expensive cutting varieties. This week, I've been relieved to see new spears appearing so while it may be later than usual before I cut any, I'm optimistic the plants have made it.
The soil deserves special attention this month. Heavy winter rain has beaten bare soil & will have washed precious nutrients away. Everything will be given a good mulch to replenish those nutrients. Plants can't keep giving without me giving back in return to support all the worms & microorganisms essential to good healthy soil.
Progress is finally being made on redesigning the area around my garden workshop. Two years ago, we took out a large strip of Leylandii hedge, bought some lattice fencing to support climbers & planned new planting for the whole area. Then days later, I broke my arm & that was that. By the time I could wield a fork again, we were busy with weddings & had no time for new developments. The outside area remained an embarassing mess, if I'm honest. But now we're finally beginning to plant! This weekend, I've added new climbing roses to the Pergola & I'm looking forward to the scents already.
My first batch of Sweet Peas are germinating, another batch will be sown on Valentine's day (nice & easy to remember). From the 15th, I sow a few tougher seeds I can plant out before our last frosts. Anything tender waits. For example, Cosmos seed packets often suggest seed can be sown from February. And it can be. The seed will germinate but it doesn't mean it's a good idea. Cosmos can't withstand frost so you'll need to keep baby plants inside until then, potting on, providing extra water, light & warmth. I don't have space or time for that so wait until early April before sowing.
Not sure if I should encourage you... but this is a good month for a bit of armchair shopping. I've noticed deals appearing on Dahlias & bare root Roses (still plenty of time for planting either). And stocks of mail order plug plants are good. Growing flowers from seed can be a cost effective way to fill a Cutting patch, but isn't the only way. If space or time is limited, or you simply want a few plants of several varieties, try plug plants. You can buy a wide variety of cut flowers as plugs by mail order
Our Wedding calendar is filling nicely & detailed consultations wiith couples have begun to plan their flowers. Colour schemes include lots of bright colours this year, as well as the ever-popular 'green & white', 'blush pink & burgundy' classics. if you know a couple planning to tie the knot this year, the wedding pages can be found by following the links from this page. As well as bespoke wedding flowers for couples planning 'the whole shebang', we'll again be supplying 'Bloom Buckets' of mixed flowers for family & friends to arrange themselves. Inevitably, the most popular Summer dates book quickly & as I take on only a few weddings each week, pre-order is recommended.
The first dates for our Events calendar for 2023 are;
This month make the most of Spring sunshine, look out for the Comet overhead & listen to those birds - they know Spring is on the way. After all the cold & wet, I'm excited to be beginning another season of growing flowers & sharing our progress with you.
Until next time,
Jobs for February;
“There is always in February some one day, at least, when one smells the yet distant, but surely coming summer.”
Gertrude Jekyll (1843 - 1932 Horticulturist, Garden Designer & Author)
Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Artisan Florist & Cut Flower Farmer near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland. Using 100% Flowers & Foliage grown in British Isles, all year round.