This month I am going to concentrate on the small flowers that show their faces in what can be the hardest month of the year.
Snowdrops can be seen from January onwards if the soil is warm but come into their own in February. Did you know that they have reinforced hard buds to force their way through frozen soil? If you want to see them in flower en-masse then head to a National Trust garden such as Dunham Massey, Attingham Park or Chirk Castle. Or go to Bucklow Farm Garden near Knutsford on the afternoon of 24th February this year to see snowdrops and other early spring bulbs. It is open under the National Gardens Scheme.
Snowdrops are often seen in flower with Winter Aconites or Eranthis. This has buttercup yellow, glossy flowers surrounded by a ruff of bright green on very short stems. They both like a humus rich soil, well drained in light shade.
Also in flower in winter to early spring are the tiny Cyclamen coum. These are the tough relatives of the cyclamen we have indoors and will flower year on year with white to deep pink flowers. They like a shady spot in well drained soil, not boggy soil and they will pop up from late autumn onwards. For autumn cyclamen, plant Cyclamen hederifolium which flower in September and have larger, mottled silvery leaves.
For exquisite flowers you cannot beat Iris reticulata which is about 12cms tall with the most beautiful deep blue miniature iris flowers. They have a variety of other colours from white, to mauve and pale yellow. All the above bulbs and corms can be bought in flower from garden centres then planted out for flowers the following years. I would have a small patch under a deciduous shrub with all these treasures planted out. Extend the winter season with a couple of Hellebores and small daffodils and species crocus which are some of the first to flower in winter.
Work to do in the garden. Prune Wisteria new stems from last year back to 2 to 3 buds to encourage flowering but leave the fat buds on older wood as they should be your flowers for this year! Finish pruning apples and pear trees but leave cherries till later in the year. Prune late summer and autumn flowering clematis down to about 12ins or 30cms. They tend to flower on growth made in the same year.