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The Garden in February

February 2009 continued cold and wet with snow and very low temperatures.  So it has been a good test of hardiness and produced surprises and disappointments in equal number. Remember, in Cheshire we've just had a 1 in 20 cold winter so we are expecting some plants to die that normally come through.

Salvia patens in all its forms is proving to be very hardy. New shoots are growing now and the tubers are still sound. Last year I reassured customers that this plant was about as hardy as a Dahlia - so if you could leave Dahlias in then Salvia patens should survive. This year I need to modify this advice:- Salvia patens are hardier than Dahlias since several of our Dahlias are obviously dead now.

Salvia guaranitica Blue Enigma and Argentine Skies are similarly hardy.

Many of the bushy New World Salvias have lost their top leaves but all are alive at the roots and should hopefully send up new shoots in spring.  Salvia elegans Scarlet Pineapple has also lost its top growth and so will be later flowering this year. So of the more tender ones like blepharophylla Painted Lady and Mulberry Jam have definitely died this year. 

Lepechinia hastata kept its top growth until the middle of the month but now has died back - we'll have to see if the rootstock has come through. Plants kept in the cold greenhouse are fine. Janet also has lots of seedling doing well. We save our own seed of this plant. The seed heads are very sticky and full of the strong (but pleasant) aroma of the stems and leaves, so collecting the seed is a messy but enjoyable task.  Sow seed in January in some bottom heat and keep the plants growing on by regular potting on. Keep young plants frost free and plant out in late May / early June (here).

Kniphofia in the ground have all survived well and when the weather warms up it is worth cutting off the old leaves to save a more difficult task later. Our stock in pots is a different matter, with about 80% now dead.

Hemerocallis are all bone hardy and we don't see any losses either in the ground or in pots. It is a good idea to clear away any mushy foliage as this can cause new growth to rot. Dormant types are already growing now and leaves need protection from early slug activity.  People often ask: "is it slug proof?" Frankly I don't know of any slug proof plant. Hemerocallis come to the attention of the slugs now because of the nice fresh growth. Its not a hard job to inspect them and pick off the offenders. Later on the plants are not really a target for slugs.

It is now that we start to divide our Heleniums. Looking around the garden, all seems to have come through the winter in the ground. A few in pots are looking a bit sad, but on the whole things are looking hopeful.  I have found that plants that struggled with drought last year are not looking as good now and they will definitely by dug, divided and brought on in pots under cloches or in the cold greenhouse.  At the end of the month the weather is warm enough here to plant strong divisions straight into the ground.

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