Smothered with a profusion of bright golden-yellow flowers on bare stems in March-April, Forsythia x intermedia 'Weekend' ('Courtalyn') is a reliable and easy to grow shrub that is excellent in a border or as an informal hedge.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb' is a superb dwarf evergreen with small leaves which begin green but turn a rich, deep purple. Forms a neat, dense mound, 90cm high and wide, remaining perfectly compact even without trimming that is delightful at the front of a mixed border.
Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens 'Freckles' is a much underrated evergreen self clinging climbing Clematis. It has lovely glossy dark green leaves that provide a useful all year coverage and take on a bronzed tinge in the winter. The highlight and real joy are the scented flowers! Which take centres stage from late autumn through winter and well into the following spring.
Continue to dig over existing beds and borders, again incorporating as much organic matter as you can. Forking over not only helps prepare the soil for spring, it helps reduce pests by exposing them to hungry birds.
It’s another lean month for wildlife and especially birds. Putting out fresh water and food is really important, especially on cold days. You’ve heard it all before, but please do buy good quality bird food or fat/suet balls and check that water is not frozen.
Trees, shrubs and climbers
Plant bare-rooted shrubs and trees and container-grown climbers. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, February is a great month for planting as the soil will soon be warming up, encouraging new roots to grow and helping the plant to become established. Remember to plant climbers about 10” away from walls so they are not in a rain shadow.
Keep off the lawn as much as possible whilst it is still wet - damage to waterlogged lawns is easily inflicted. If, towards the end of the month, the weather turns dry and mild, the lawn is firm and the grass is starting to look a little shaggy, give it a very gentle mow with the blades on the highest setting - don’t be tempted if conditions are wet! Also, if you are planning a new lawn, now is probably the earliest you could start preparing the ground for seeding or laying turf. Ask for advice in your local garden centre if you are unsure as to how to begin!
Bulbs, flowers and containers
Buy and plant container-grown snowdrops - add some compost to the soil plus a sprinkling of bonemeal and plant them slightly deeper than they were in the pot.
Cover strawberry plants with garden fleece to encourage them to fruit earlier than they normally would.