In these uncertain times, the rhythm of the gardening year can be very comforting. Even in the depths of winter, Richard Orton finds plenty of therapeutic jobs to keep him busy at Lewis Cottage, both inside and out, such as sorting seeds, potting up plants and pruning trees and shrubs. He also suggests some gardens to visit in February.

Seed sorting

The winter weather has provided the ideal opportunity to sort through the numerous packets of seeds that seem to arrive daily.  If you are looking to buy seeds I can heartily recommend new independent supplier Special Plants Nursery and old favourites Higgledy Garden and Plants of Distinction.

 It is also a good time to sort through the bags of seeds we collected from the garden at the end of last summer.  

Bags of Seed Sorted Last Summer

Sorting the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, is a long, slow business, but not difficult to do and well worth it in the end and very therapeutic too. For the most part these seeds will be used to supply the nursery with new stock of herbaceous perennials for next year though many are favourite garden annuals such as cosmos, ammi visnaga and linaria, which we use to fill seasonal gaps in the borders when the herbaceous perennials are past their best.

Sorting Seeds is Therapeutic

We’re fortunate to be blessed with a garden that for the most part is sheltered and extends the season to the beginning of November.  So it’s always important to include and grow some late flowering varieties such as cleome violet queen and cobaea scandens, the latter of which we had great success with this year, the former also back to its splendid prickly best.

Cleome can be a bit tricky to germinate (they can take up to 6 weeks to start) and  I’ve never had much success from those seeds collected from my own plants for some reason. But if you can get them going, they are a delight at the end of summer.

Collecting your own seeds can be very rewarding too. Some that you think will be tricky turn out to be the simplest to germinate. I’ve been surprised by some canna seeds I sowed in 2021; after one season’s growth the three plants that survived are now a healthy 6 inches tall and will be ready to plant out next year.

Plant potting

When we do manage to get outdoors, the next few weeks will be spent potting up plants in the nursery for the new season ahead and that alone makes for a positive start to the new year, for it’s not long before new growth appears ready for when our spring plant orders begin to arrive.

Potted up plants in the nursery

As a result of the mild winter we’re having so far the cannas and dahlias that we’re overwintering as a trial this year in the unheated greenhouses are beginning to shoot already. Fingers crossed they’ll survive any future frosts as it’ll mean they’ll be ready to plant out just a little earlier than usual and will free the greenhouses for our tomatoes, peppers, melons and cucumbers.

Some gardens to visit in February

Of course, all this preparation is part of the yearly planning process for our National Gardens Scheme open days and whilst we have a few months to do this, there are some gardens that will open soon, most notably those with snowdrop collections.

Higher Cherubeer near Winkleigh open their garden gates to galanthophiles on the 11th and 19th February and The Mount, Delamore, near Ivybridge open theirs on the 12th February.

Jobs for February

The next month is all about preparedness, so here are a few jobs for those days when you can get outside.

● Prune dormant shrubs such as willow and cornus to the ground, along with any group 2 clematis.

● Cut back fuchsias to one or two buds.

● Tidy up your vegetable beds, remove debris, add lime to acid soils and build or repair raised beds ahead of the planting season.

● Cut autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground, prune apple and pear trees, shape gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes to maintain a productive bush.

● Trim hedges before birds start nesting and check any nesting boxes to make sure they are clean and secure.

You can find out more about the nursery and open days at Lewis Cottage Garden here

Dec 1, 2021
Health and Wellbeing

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