In this part of the French News Online "Lifeslyle" Section,
professional gardener Michael Alexander, takes us, gently, through
those tasks you should be tackling in the garden this month.
Prune Wisteria now
I can tell it has been a harsh winter from the number of
times my assistant, Miss P, refused to get out of the car when
we arrived at work. The thermometer in the car might not be working,
along with one tail light and one windscreen wiper, but she always
knows when it is below 5°c which she deems as the minimal acceptable
I've tried tempting her out by throwing a stick a few times but
she just gives me that "If you want it, you fetch it" look
and goes back to sleep. Miss P has always been the perfect gardening
assistant in that she is happy to follow me around and listen
to all my gardening theories without arguing or trying to force
through ideas of her own.
Often the trouble with canine assistants is that they can be over
ambitious, seeing themselves as designers. There is nothing worse
than planting a couple of hundred bulbs or seedlings only to return
a few hours later and find that your loyal follower has now replanted
everything across the lawn, the patio and under the car. Miss
P may be a little reluctant in cold weather but she manages to
contain any design aspirations very humbly
February can be a slow month in the garden calendar. By now most
of the perennials should have been cut back and there are few
weeds or pests about. If you have not yet finished pruning your
hard fruit (see last months column), there is still time and I
probably won't start on the roses till the end of the month.
Proper pruning produces results
The Wisteria (or glycine as they are called here), need
to be pruned now. Cut all of last years growth back to within
two or three buds of the main frame. After flowering cut back
all the new growth to about thirty centimetres which will encourage
a second less impressive flowering. To keep Wisteria tidy I normally
have to cut back again once or twice more during the summer or
else I become swamped by a mass of green tendrils desperately
searching for the sun.
Dahlia bulbs that you lifted last year can be planted into pots
so they can get a good start before planting out for summer. If
you are lucky enough to have a lot of Galanthus (snow drops...
or perce-neige in France), now is the time to divide them
and plant into all those little shady gaps that need filling.
With most of the foliage in the garden having died back and spring
bulbs starting to stick their noses through the soil, it is a
good time to be taking stock and changing bed shapes and planting
plans, as you can see better where to place things and where not
to tread. There is never a garden where everything is exactly
as you want it, so this is a good opportunity to move things around
and try out new design ideas. Some people find this a little intimidating
but remember that if you get stuck you can always ask the dog.