This Month in the Garden February 2019 with Derek Cox

Alstroemeria ‘Summer Break’

Last October I wrote about my newly purchased Alstroemeria ‘Summer Break’, pictured above, which being pot grown I had stood on the bench in my greenhouse awaiting a space to plant in my herbaceous border. The plant still stands on the bench and would you believe it, although this was in flower when I bought it, as I write this it still has five stems each carrying white-edged pink flowers, whose inner petals are striped with dark brown. Outdoors in the border all of my other five varieties of Alstroemeria died back to ground level during early November, so it just goes to show how just given the protection of my cold greenhouse, many plants will flower over a much longer period.
I always admire Cyclamen coum for its flowers that appear during December and despite frost will continue to flower into early February. I grow a number of forms of this Cyclamen in a gravel scree at the rear of my house with flowers that vary from white to almost red and although most have round green leaves, one appeared last year whose leaves are edged with silver. Cyclamen coum has small rounded tubers, which should be planted with the hollow side uppermost and almost at ground level. Cyclamen are summer deciduous their foliage dying down during April/May. This will often give a vacant space in a summer border, so do try to remember where you have planted them else you will be chopping the tubers up as you hoe weeds, or wedge them out as you plant summer bedding.
On New Year’s day, as I walked up my lawn to fill the two bird feeders at the rear of my garden I noticed most of my snowdrops were already three inches (75mm) tall and massed with flower buds. Now they are in full flower and look brilliant against the dark shrubs behind them. Incidentally, as the foliage of snowdrops dies down it will also shed all of its roots and during this time you can divide large clumps before the bulbs start to produce new roots within the next 8/10 weeks. Snowdrops, like 95 percent of all plants rely on soil borne mycorrhizal fungus to survive. Mycorrhizal fungus lives on plant roots and gives the plants micronutrients in exchange for a small amount of the plants energy. When separating snowdrops always take a small amount of the existing soil along with the bulbs as without the soil borne fungus the bulbs may not survive.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles

This week as I walked up my garden path towards my compost bins I pass beneath an archway that has a Wisteria on one side and Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles on the other side. ‘Freckles’, pictured here, is native to the Balearic isles in the Mediterranean sea, but flowers during our winter. Its cream flowers are spotted and striped with red, but they are pendulous and are best viewed when grown over an archway, or even up a tall trellis. During February my garden is filled with the sweet fragrance of Sarcoccoca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’, which as its name suggests has purple young branches and these act as a superb background to this low growing shrubs small fragrant flowers. This is a very hardy low growing evergreen shrub that will flower in up to 75 percent shade. Many of the winter flowering Viburnums have a very heavy fragrance, which I could not put up with as cut stems in the house.
During January a number of the Syston in Bloom committee members were along at the Syston station clearing up the rubbish left by overnight revellers. I went along to prune a number of shrubs and also cut down the autumn flowering dead perennial stems. Trevor loves to stack all of the perennial waste in the large compost bin, so no doubt that next spring we shall have good compost to spread around the existing plants.

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

Incidentally, there are two standard Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’, pictured below, growing in one border and these winter flowering cherries are covered in white flowers during the winter months. Looking at the borders and the flower boxes on the platform I can only say, WELL DONE Syston in Bloom committee for attaining a silver medal in the East Midlands train’s awards.