Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shared what’s going on in the garden this month
Almost out of winter, the sun rising in the sky and the soil beginning to warm, I am chomping at the bit knowing what is around the corner. As a lover of the seasons, while February can be cold, dark and foreboding, I would never wish the month away. It is the final rest and recharge (for us as well as the garden) before spring explodes into action.
Flowers in the garden are diminutive and shy, rewarding one with colour, scent and complexity if you go out and seek them. Hamamelis (witchhazel), muscari, hellebores, crocus and flowering viburnums are some of my highlights. One of my favourite winter climbers is the evergreen clematis cirrhosa ‘freckles’. I gardened in Cambridge for a plantswoman early in my 20s and she thoughtfully had this plant growing up through a hawthorn tree. They share leaf shape, so it is unnoticeable in the summer months but as the tree loses its leaves, the clematis begins to flower. The delicate little bell-shaped flowers are only really appreciated from below, so flowering up through a tree above was perfect. Using plants like this, balancing season with features, has informed my gardening and arranging work.
Gathering shrubs and flower stems and displaying in single-bud vases allows you to fully appreciate each exquisite piece. Keep this in mind around Valentine’s Day. For me, a carefully chosen single stem or a couple of pieces of foliage and budding branches tied with a ribbon is far more thoughtful than the ubiquitous roses and bouquets shipped in. Added value can be found from consulting Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers. The Victorians often gave each other little posies, called ‘tussie-mussie’; different flowers symbolised different emotions, so the posies were a coded message. Planning the planting a year in advance for a posy must be a mark of true love!
“One idea for Valentine’s is a pot with a single pansy”
One idea for a Valentine’s gift is an antique terracotta pot with a single pansy; this represents ‘thought’, derived from the French word ‘pensée’. The plant can be grown and enjoyed for weeks to come; a love token that is sustainable and considered rather than extravagant and wasteful. Try making a little posy of snowdrops (to represent hope), winter jasmine (meaning grace and elegance), fern (fascination) and a sprig of ivy (fidelity and marriage); a perfectly thoughtful, romantic proposal.
In the garden, if it is mild and dry, finish off fruit tree pruning, cut down dogwoods to six inches (welcoming brighter stems for next winter) and ensure pots aren’t sitting wet and water-logged. Bare root shrubs, trees and roses must be planted now. If it freezes, keep off the grass and beds entirely to prevent damage. Frost might lift plants out of the soil so re-firm with your foot when thawed.