Prune your buddleia davidii
Februrary is often the month we are encouraged to prune our buddleias. I’m sure it could be done in March without a judicial enquiry, but gardening jobs are sometimes driven by custom than any real research into what is best. But for now, I suggest you go to it with a decent set of secateurs and maybe a pruning saw on the basis that it has always worked for me!.
There are different types of Buddleja, I’m talking here about B. davidii, with long racemes of usually purple flowers, smelling gently of honey, often seen colonising waste ground. If yours has got huge and a bit of a mess, a really hard prune should be beneficial. We cut our well established specimens down to about knee high just above a bud, but you can be more brutal. This will rejuvenate your plant, unless it is suffering badly from old age and neglect in which case it may pop its clogs. If that is a risk, you can always take cuttings, they root readily. We have a gorgeous pink buddleia (pictured) bought as a gift from a kind gardening pal. She stood watching the various plants in the garden centre and picked the one that had the most visiting butterflies; what a fabulous way to choose! It continues to be beloved by now several generations of butterflies and bees as well as us.
The red leaved Cotinus is also about to get the hard prune treatment. It has got a bit big and is doing a plant version of a rather tall and gangly teenager. So that will be cut really hard back, practically coppiced. That way we should end up with a more compact, but graceful shrub with bigger and more dramatic leaves. My usual plea – please don’t do the lightly trim thing and turn every tree and shrub your garden into tidy-but-graceless lollipops!
Now is a good time to divide ornamental grasses. They don’t like being moved until they are starting into growth. I tried it one autumn and it sulked for a year or so then died. My favourite grass is Miscanthus ‘silver stripe’. It grows about a metre tall, has bright Autumn colour and a lovely elegant presence.
I can’t write this column in February without mentioning snowdrops (Galanthus). There are 19 species of snowdrop and hundreds of different ones. You can, if you buy and plan well, have snowdrops in flower from September to April. We have a much cherished clump of the bigger G. ‘Sam Arnott’ by the front door, but named varieties can be ruinously expensive and for maximum impact I really do love the common G. nivalis. Its looks fabulous in big sheets under trees. When time and energy allow, we have gradually been lifting and dividing clumps after flowering to make a bigger show. By doing it then you can see where you are planting and don’t stick them on top of existing bulbs!
There are several snowdrop gardens in reasonable reach of us to visit. The show at Hodsock Priory is especially wonderful. It’s a bit of a trek to Blyth I know, but well worth it. They are open for much of February, ring 01909 591 204 to make sure before you set off! Other spring bulbs such as aconites are also planted generously among the snowdrops.
Spring is on the way so keep smiling and enjoy your garden as it emerges from its winter snooze!