Gardeners’ Blog – February 2016

We’re slowly getting more hours of daylight, which means the tasks that Chris and her team have on their to-do lists are beginning to get progressively longer as February unfolds.

The first task the team will get under way this month is rose pruning. It’s important to remove any branches that are dead, diseased and dying, as well as any crossing branches, to open up the framework.  Once that is done, the next task will be to cut back to three good buds on a stem.

They will also start to tidy up bamboos, especially ones with coloured culms (stems).  The unwanted thinnest or oldest stems will be cut away to ground level, then all the side shoots will be cut off the remaining stems. If you are doing the same, take the side shoots off the stems you are retaining to about two metres, if you can manage to get that high, so that you can see through the plant.

The team hopes that the weather will be a little drier this month when it begins to mulch the shrub and rose beds and tree circles with our rich, home-made compost. The soil needs to be damp but not sodden, so fingers crossed for optimal conditions!

If the weather allows, Chris and her team will also attempt to mow the grass because it has not stopped growing all winter.  They’ve had to resist up to now because the lawns have been too wet and the mowers would have churned them up to a muddy mess.

If you’re visiting the Gardens this month, there are lots of plants to look out for that will stimulate the senses.

You’ll enjoy the heady fragrances of Viburnums, Hamamelis, Sarcococca, honeysuckles and the most delicious of all the Daphne. Also look out for the Cornus and Salix with their gorgeous stem colour, Cyclamen coum Hellebores and their multi-coloured flowers, summer snowflakes (Leucojeums), and the vibrant winter aconites. There’s even a Rhododendron in flower in the Cottage Garden.

If you’re lucky, you may also spot some crocuses that have escaped the squirrels’ attention.

In the Tropical and Subtropical Houses, the last of the cutting back will take place, allowing as much light in as possible. Who needs a winter sun holiday when you have the Birmingham Botanical Gardens!

The team will be doing a stock take on the database to ensure that the plants are in the correct plant bed, according to the records. It will also highlight from a curatorial point of view if there are any gaps in the plant collection, giving us the opportunity to buy or propagate any that are needed.

Most importantly, this plant audit enables the team to label the plants, so that all visitors know the name of the plant they are looking at. There are about 6,000 plant accessions on the database, so that’s a lot of labels!

If you’re heading to the glasshouses, look out for the fabulous Dombeya x cayeuxii – a large shrub opposite the orchid case, whose big, pink, Hydrangea- like flowers fill the Subtropical House with their sweet sugary scent. Beaumontia grandiflora is also looking great in February. It’s located in the Subtropical House and is easy to spot: this large evergreen climber has huge white, trumpet-like flowers that look as if they are reaching for the sun.

If you are out and about in the Gardens this month, remember to take photographs of all of your discoveries and tweet them to @bhambotanicalgd.