Tips of the month – February/March

As the dark days depart, spring is on its way. We have already enjoyed some very warm days and on occasion, slightly dryer weather. February is the month to get your garden ready for new growth and colours. 

Weather watch:

With hints of warm temperature, February can sometimes be very cold. Hold off on most planting and sowing and focus on maintenance jobs that need to be done in the garden. After the stormy weather we had this year, it is the right time to check your fences and give them a coat of paint. Also clean paths and patios.


  • Lillies bulbs can be planted out towards the end of this month in pots or directly in the ground.
  • It is not too late to plant alliums, that will flower later than those planted last autumn. 
  • Summer bulbs: Order bulbs now to plant them when all risk of frost has passed.

Lift Snowdrops

It is the right time to lift and divide congested populations of snowdrops, replanting smaller clumps at the same depth as they were before.  

Cutting back and pruning

  • Clear away old stems and seed-heads of perennials left to stand over winter, making space for new growth. 
  • Prune summer flowering shrubs 
  • Lavender: trim back the old flower stalks 
  • Sedums: cut the brown stems down to ground level
  • Ornamental grasses: cut deciduous grasses down to the ground before new growth starts to emerge.
  • Shrub roses: remove dead or diseased stems and cut back repeat-flowering roses by a third to a half. 
  • Prune late-flowering clematis (group 3 clematis): cut just above a pair of healthy buds about 30 to 60 cm above ground.
  • Autumn fruiting raspberries: simply cut down all canes to the ground and apply a thick layer of homemade compost or mulch. 
  • Wisteria: February is the last month to give wisteria a winter prune. Cut back the stems to two or three buds. 
  • Fuchsia, penstemons: best to wait another month until you see signs of new growth. 

Sowing Annuals

  • It might still be too cold to sow outdoors. The end of the month is a good time to give annuals a head start, indoors in a warm sunny windowsill, or a heated greenhouse. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, transfer them to small pots to grow, before moving them in late spring in the ground or bigger pots. 

Chitting potatoes

February is a good month to start chitting seed potatoes in a light, cool but frost free place. Potatoes will need 4 to 6 weeks of chitting before they are ready to plant. This will give them a chance to sprout and start putting on growth. They will be ready for planting in mid-March to April when the soli temperature warms up to 6-10 degrees.

Talk by Fergus Garrett at AHS February meeting

Fergus Garrett, the Head Gardener at Great Dixter and CEO of the Great Dixter Trust spoke to members and friends at Aldersbrook Horticultural Society’s February meeting. He spoke of learning from the great gardener Christopher Lloyd who owned Great Dixter. They worked together for many years and Christopher Lloyd was Fergus’s mentor. His talk was on Succession Planting, explaining how to ensure that our garden borders and beds can look good all the year round by planting different plants in succession, leaving no gaps in the soil at any particular time of the year. He explained which plants work well together, for example, growing small and relatively slow growing spring bulbs under deciduous trees or with ferns and hostas before they come into leaf. He explained how important it is to use shrubs for all round interest and provide shape and mass in the border. He said some plants would be too thuggish to plant with others and emphasised how important it is to plant the right plant in the right place and showed how even different varieties in the same genus of plant will develop in different ways and emphasised the importance of observing your plants and how they grow. The audience was wowed by beautiful slides showing how each area of planting changed through the seasons and how some plants take over when others die back or disappear underground. He recommended marking out a border so that you know which plant or seeds can be planted in which section of the bed. At the end of his talk, Fergus answered a number of questions from enthusiastic members of the audience, who gave very positive feedback and we hope to invite him for another talk next year.