News - Page 81

February's plant of the month is the camellia

February's plant of the month is the camellia, a real garden favourite at this time of year for its colourful, showy blooms in every colour from pure white 'Alba Plena' to the deep red of 'Crimson King'. The flowers look rather like flattened roses, single, cup-shaped and about 7cm across. They're often scented, too – cut a few to perfume the house when there's little else around.

Camellias are evergreen, making big, handsome shrubs up to 3m tall, so give the...

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Force rhubarb

Force rhubarb any time from January onwards for the very earliest fruit in the garden – and one of the best. Forcing (excluding light from growing stems) encourages shoots to grow much earlier than they usually would, sending up growth that's very tender, delicate and sweet.

Start any time between late December until early February by covering the whole crown so that no light can get to the emerging stems. Traditional terracotta forcing jars look lovely and a...

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Get to know your snowdrops

Get to know your snowdrops at one of the many garden openings taking place this month and next which focus especially on this most welcome of late winter flowers.

You'll find snowdrop days all over the country, from the Snowdrop Exhibition, currently open at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire, to Dungannon's snowdrop walks in Co. Tyrone, and open days at Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire, nationally renowned for its collection of 250 varieties.

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January's plant of the month is the primula

January's plant of the month is the primula - and no wonder. This is one of our prettiest spring flowers. You can see its delicate pale yellow petals spangling hedgerows and grassy banks from March until May.

The wild primrose, Primula vulgaris, and its close relatives the cowslip (Primula veris) and oxslip (Primula elatior) are all delightfully natural-looking and not difficult to grow. They prefer a damp, shady spot – in the dappled shade of a tree is perfe...

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Happy National Potato Day!

Now is the time for stocking up on seed potato tubers, ready to start chitting from February onwards. Choose a mixture of first earlies, second earlies and maincrops to stagger your harvest. First earlies are dug up from June onwards, and have a superb, delicate flavour – mouthwatering steamed with melted butter and topped with a sprig of mint. Reliable, fast-maturing second earlies keep you well-fed all summer, while maincrops bulk up ready for storing through wint...

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Fend off snow damage

Fend off snow damage by getting out into the garden after each heavy fall to check your plants and other structures are holding up well.

Snow isn't as harmful to plants as you'd think – in fact it can serve to protect them from cold damage as it has an insulating, blanketing effect. But a really heavy fall of snow causes problems due to its sheer weight, so take time to run through a simple post-snow checklist to keep damage to a minimum.

  • Start b...
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Dance around your apple trees

Dance around your apple trees this week as it's wassailing time – when, according to tradition, apple growers toast the health of their apple trees in mulled cider. If you haven't got an apple tree yourself, there are lots of wassailing parties you can join: try Ryton Gardens, in Coventry, Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, Middlesex, or the community orchard at Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, Devon.

There's plenty more you can be doing this month to help your apple trees cr...

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Prune wisteria

Prune wisteria in January and in August for a waterfall of sweetly-scented flowers in early summer. It's hard to beat this elegant, stately climber in its full early summer glory. You'll find shades from pure white through classic pale lilac to a rosy pink in your favourite garden centre: as well as the classic Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, look out for Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) with dramatic racemes of flowers up to a metre long.

To get...

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Wander among the butterflies this week

Wander among the butterflies this week in the tropical glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley, in Surrey, where from Saturday they're releasing hundreds of huge, exotic butterflies from South America to flutter among the bromeliads and bananas. Enjoy their iridescent beauty at close quarters – wear something brightly-coloured and they may even land on your shoulder.

You can visit every day until Sunday 24 February, but if you can't get to Wisley you...

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Recycle your Christmas tree

Recycle your Christmas tree – you'd be amazed how many uses you can find for it around the garden. Once you've packed the decorations away for another year, get to work with a pair of secateurs and a shredder and you can transform your tree into a garden feature. Here are a few ideas:

Mulch: Christmas tree needles and shredded branches make a great mulch around acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, blueberries or camellias. Strip the branche...

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