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The Grumpy Gardener - February

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
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.

wisateria needs to be pruned now
Prune Wisteria now

Good Help is Hard to Find in Winter

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 gardening temperature.

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.

Trouble With Assistants
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

Finish Pruning
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.

Wisteria in full flower
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.

Dahlias and Snowdrops
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.

A Good Time to Move Things Around
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.

Previously - click an image below
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
What you should have done in January!
A World Without Bees?
Fruit Tree Pruning

Grumpy Gardener
Our Grumpy Gardener has been professionally gardening in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Article: Mike Alexander

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