Managing Trees and Shrubs in February
If conditions are favourable you can plant container grown or bare rooted ornamental trees and deciduous shrubs.
Established hedges should be cleared of decaying matter which might harbour pests and given a light trim if untidy. February is also the ideal time to plant a new hedge from containerised plants or bare rooted deciduous hedges.
Towards the end of the month is an ideal time to prune to Hybrid tea (large-flowered) and Floribunda (cluster flowered) roses. Cut away any dead, diseased and damaged wood. Prune back until healthy green (not brown) wood is reached. Also cut out any thin, twiggy wood and crossing branches.
With large flowered roses, cut back the remaining healthy shoots to remove half, or a little more than half, of their length. Cluster-flowered roses benefit from slightly lighter pruning, with a third to a half of the length removed. With cluster flowered roses, you should also cut out, almost to ground level, a bit of the very old wood each year, to get the finest displays. In each case, make the cut at a 45° angle 6 mm (2.5 in) above an outward pointing bud, for a well shaped bush.
Planting a Hedge
A mild weekend in February is an ideal time to plant a hedge. Popular varieties that can be planted now include:
Alder, Beech, Blackthorn, Box, Buckthorn, Flowering Current, Forsythia, Hawthorn, Hazel, Hebe, Hornbeam, Lavender, Lonicera, Maple, Mixed Native, Photinia, Potentilla, Privet, Pyracantha, Quickthorn, Wild Rose, Snowberry, Spiraea, Weigela.
The exceptions are container grown Cypress, Leylandii, Thuja and Yew, plus broad-leaved evergreen hedges, made from plants such as bare-rooted Holly, Elaeagnus, Berberis, Euonymus, Laurel and Viburnum Tinus - leave these until April, when the soil and the air are a bit warmer, and there is enough moisture about to keep the leaves from drying out before the roots have become fully established.
Hedges can vary in height from dwarf lavender and box hedges of 30 cm (1 ft), to those of yew or hornbeam, that can be grown as high as required. Whatever plants you choose, make sure they are sturdy specimens, with good growth at the base, rather than taller, spindly ones.
Carefully prepare the site a week or two before planting. Clear the ground of perennial weeds and dig over the strip where the hedge is to go, to at least half as wide again as the planting width, and dig in plenty of well-rotted compost or manure. Let the ground settle, then just before planting, sprinkle on a good general fertilizer and fork it into the soil.
Soak bare-rooted plants for at least an hour, and prune off any roots that are broken or damaged. Water container grown plants very thoroughly but don't disturb the root ball, except to gently tease out any roots growing in a spiral at the bottom.
Position a stake in at each end of the strip and run a garden line between to ensure the hedge is planted straight. Use a length of wood or cane cut to the required distance between plants to use as a rule for spacing. Dig a hole at the first position and plant at the correct depth, spreading the roots well out if it is bare rooted. The soil level when firmed should match the soil level mark on the stem. Space out the second and following plants at the correct distance. Firm each plant in with your feet before planting the next. Water copiously, and keep the plants watered if the ground is at all dry over the next few weeks until the plants are established.
Planting Trees And Shrubs
The planting of bare-rooted or root wrapped, deciduous trees and shrubs should be completed before the end of February, though it must never be hurried just for that reason. The aim should always be to finish planting before there are any signs of growth. Prepare the site well, first by digging a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. If the weather is suitably mild and the soil not too wet, container-grown shrubs can be planted in the same way. However, if in doubt, wait a few more weeks for the soil to warm up a little more.
The planting of evergreens, conifers and plants growing in containers should be left till April.
Late Winter Pruning
It is time this month to prune late-flowering clematis such as Clematis 'Jackmanii'. Either cut them back hard, to 30 cm (1 ft) from the ground, or, to keep a larger framework of stems, just cut the side-shoots back to one pair of buds from the main stem.
February is also the month to prune buddleia, Spiraea japonica, tamarisk and hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata). The woody growth made last year should be cut back hard to one or two buds from the old wood. If the plant is young, leave some of the strong new growth to build up the plant's framework.
Once winter-flowering jasmine has finished its display, prune back the flowered shoots by around half, thinning out any overcrowded and crossing over branches at the same time.
Cut back the summer-pruned extension shoots of wisteria to two or three buds to build up extensive flowering spurs.
Overgrown climbing honeysuckle will need more drastic pruning. Cut one or two of the main stems back to ground level, then remove any remaining dead or diseased wood. It is best to detach branches from their supports, to unravel twining growth and cut the stems cleanly. When the pruning is completed, rearrange the branches on the support and tie them in place.
Honeysuckle that flowers on new growth will need careful pruning. If you prefer the look of rambling and bushy honeysuckle, then it can be left to its own devices and pruned when it becomes too large or very unkempt.
Shrubs for February
Deciduous trees and shrubs providing colour:
Chaenomeles (flowering quince)
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima', 'Sibirica' & Cornus stolonifera 'Flavirarnea'(dogwoods)
Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry)
Witch hazel (Hamamelis)
Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima and purpusii)
Salix alba 'Cherrnesina'
Viburnum farreri & bodnantense
Evergreen trees and shrubs providing colour:
Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Garrya elliptica (catkins)
Some cultivars of Camellia and Pieris
Winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)