At last spring is on the way with plants coming into growth with the lengthening daylight, even if there is frost and snow. There are plenty of plants to give colour and scent in February and March.
Starting with small flowers, how about a drift of snowdrops, either the native single variety or for a change, buy some double snowdrops. As you can see from the photo, the double snowdrop flower is beautiful. Another flower for early spring is the Winter Aconite or Eranthis. This has bright buttercup yellow, glossy flowers on very short stems. Both snowdrops and Aconites prefer a humus rich soil, well drained, usually under larger shrubs or in woodland. It is best to plant them when in growth as sometimes the bulbs and corms can dry out and not grow on after planting.
Scented shrubs are a joy in winter as they are unexpected but often highly fragrant coming from relatively small flowers. The Winter Box Sarcococca confusa or Sarcococca Hookeriana is a low evergreen (to 80cms) with tiny white flowers, not much to look at but they pack a powerful fragrance which in a small space, will waft on the breeze. It will grow in sun or light shade on almost any soil which retains moisture.
Another choice scented shrub which is more colourful is Daphne bholua Jaqueline Postill. Last year I visited Rode Hall to see the snowdrops and they had many of these shrubs in flower. They will grow to 2.5m tall, are evergreen and have clusters of sweetly scented pink flowers (see photo) all over the shrub. Will grow on any well drained but moisture retentive soil but must have shelter from wind and frost to perform best.
There are some clematis that will flower in mild periods in winter although you have to bear in mind that many have much smaller flowers than the summer varieties. Clematis cirrhosa Jingle Bells or Freckles will flower in early spring. They have small bell shaped flowers in cream and spotted pink with evergreen foliage. These require shelter and a west or south facing position away from frost and with well drained, moisture retentive soil.
If you have an apricot or peach growing against a wall or fence do remember to protect the flowers from frost. Apricots come into flower in late February or early March so to make sure of a crop put a fleece over it when frost is due and remove during the day to allow pollination.
Prune Wisteria new stems from last year back to 2 to 3 buds to encourage flowering but leave the fat buds on older wood alone – they should be your flowers for this year!
Cut back dead stems from perennials and grasses being careful to avoid damaging any new shoots.