Peter’s Gardening Tips for February 2021

Winter Bites Back!

Brrrr it’s a serious shock to the system, after continuous atrocious wet weather for weeks on end and relatively mild temperatures, mother nature decides to turn the dial down to freezing mode!

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Freezing temperatures are a major shock to plants, wildlife and us.  So many plants were poking up from the ground in flower to cheer us up in Lockdown 3.  I absolutely adore Snowdrops, so exquisite and I have to confess to collecting a few.  Their resilience to the weather conditions is incredible, frozen solid and splattered with mud, they will thaw out and stand up again….

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ snowdrops

Gardening and DIY jobs outside are on hold at the moment for obvious reasons.  I have been wanting to plant trees and shrubs for weeks but the ground is saturated or now frozen.  I still have bulbs to plant that arrived last autumn, so these will be going into pots with thawed compost to be placed in suitable gaps in the borders later or allowed to flower in groups outside the back door.

Over the past few weeks I have been pruning climbing roses on pergolas and arbours – cutting out old flowered stems which are often black or silvery grey; gnarled old stems with a lack of vigour, keeping the greener stronger stems coming from the base of the plant and tying these in.  These are this year’s flowering stems.  Sometimes you have to be ruthless cutting these old stems to the ground to encourage new growth this year.  Mulch afterwards with compost or well-rotted manure around the base of the plant.  Roses are hungry feeders!

Before pruning

After pruning

Other pruning jobs

Disinfect or clean your tools in between each plant you move onto prune. This stops the spread of diseases.

  • Grapevines to do urgently because of the sap rising.  If it bleeds when you prune, I suggest you don’t do anymore cutting back, leave now until July/August time.
  • Bush roses cut out old stems to the ground.  Aim to produce an open centre to the roses.  Remove criss-crossing stems, and weak thin twigs less than pencil thickness.  Prune to outward facing buds.  I will show you how to prune roses in the coming weeks via video on Silversurfers, watch this space!
  • Wisterias need tidying up with all their leaves off.  Plenty of dead wood and twiggy bits can be cut out and rubbed off with gloved hands.  Cut back wispy growth to 4-6 inches.  Flower buds are black and fatter than growth buds, check wires and vine eyes are secure.
  • Apple and pear trees will need pruning too whilst dormant.  Bush/standard trees should have an open centre to the tree to allow plenty of light and air through the tree.  It should be possible to ‘Throw a Hat’ through the middle of the tree or a ‘Pigeon should be able to fly through the middle’, so the tale goes.
  • Please DO NOT prune plums, cherries, nectarines or peaches in winter because there is a real chance of causing Bacterial or Bleeding Canker and in plums ‘Silverleaf’, these should all be pruned from June to September.

Before pruning this apple tree

I thinned out the middle of the tree with my electric Stihl chainsaw

Back to Armchair Gardening, please do crack on with ordering seed potatoes, veg & flower seeds, garlic/onions and shallots for the coming season.  Summer bulbs, corms and tubers will also be arriving like Dahlias and Gladiolus, keep an eye out! Some suppliers are telling me things are already selling out and in short supply as demand is so great, they can’t pack quickly enough alongside the Covid restrictions….. please be patient with suppliers.

Here are 8 of the best flowering plants for a colourful garden display

We have a wide range of plants that you can pre-order from the Silversurfers Shop

The same can be said for bare root rose suppliers, fruit trees and hedging plants, garden centres are open if you are having problems sourcing items from certain businesses.

Jobs to do when the weather allows

Cleaning your tools

  • Clean, sharpen, oil tools – wire brush, Felco diamond steel sharpener is ideal for secateurs, scissors and lopper blade sharpening.  Wipe over with an oily rag to keep rust off.
  • Keep hungry birds fed with fat balls, black sunflower seeds or sunflower hearts.  Any old apples will be much enjoyed by blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares.  It is important to maintain clean feeders and bird baths to stop the transmission of diseases.
  • Put up next boxes preferably 2 metres or more off the ground, and not facing south.  Woodcrete nest boxes are very long-lasting,- not being attacked by Woodpeckers or Squirrels.
  • Start chitting seed potatoes in egg boxes, placed in a light cool frost free room/shed/garage.  Try to keep below 10c, to stop sprouts growing too fast.
  • Check stored tubers of dahlias, gladioli corms, fruit, potatoes, onions etc.  Remove rotten or damaged ones.
  • Sow Sweetpea seeds in Root trainers – keep protected from mice and voles, they love the seeds and new shoots!
  • Tidy up herbaceous plants, work off old scaffold boards to spread your weight if on heavy ground.
  • Ponds, clear out fallen leaves, twigs, acorns and pine cones.  Place on the side of the pond so any critters can crawl back in.  If frogs and toads are already back in your pond, leave alone and don’t bother them.
  • Spray fruit trees with Vitax Winter Wash.
  • Check tree ties, stakes and climbing plants for damage caused by wind.  Also, check wire cutting into stems.
  • Pressure wash paths and decking to remove algae and slime. Add a sprinkling of sharp sand for extra grip
  • Service machinery – mowers, strimmers, blowers etc.

Click here to visit the gardening section in the Silversurfers Shop

spring inspection and cleaning of birdhouses

Above all get out and about locally to gardens open for snowdrop walks, booking a slot is fairly straightforward.   Whilst walking look for signs of spring – catkins on hazel trees, primroses, hellebores, crocus, daffodils, winter-flowering heathers, witch hazel, winter-flowering honeysuckle and clematis and the best Daphnes for scent.

Listen to the bird song and look for early bees, hoverflies, frogs, toads and newts heading back to ponds…. Spring is around the corner for us all to enjoy, nature at it’s best cheering us up……

Happy gardening!



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Peter has spent his life gardening, working in garden centres and advising in all aspects of gardening, wildlife, and bio-diversity in horticulture. He managed Clandon Park Garden Centre in Surrey at the age of 23 and was a gardening radio presenter with the BBC. This continued for 15 years, running live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows. Now self-employed, Peter works on a wide variety of gardens from private to large estates and also concentrating on consultancy and advisory work to fellow gardeners. He works with the RHS Gardening Advice team at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Wisley Flower shows and is an RHS External Gardening Advisor

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11th Feb 2021
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Very interesting article. I need to get my secateurs out this weekend.

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