I am always pleased when February comes along, even though it is usually a cold wet month, as it means that spring is not far away with all the excitements of the ‘early year’ garden to come.

However, there are still lots of jobs to be done out there and pruning climbers like wisteria and bougainvillea comes to mind now that the leaves have fallen and you can see the outline of the branches more clearly. Some don’t prune wisteria and just remove any dead stems, but bougainvillea puts on such growth each season, that it might out-grow its space, so would benefit from a severe pruning now and again. Watch out for the nasty thorns though along the stems and do protect your arms.

If you didn’t manage to prune your citrus fruit trees earlier there is still time this month and if there are any fruits on branches leave those and go back to them later. Everyone loves to have a lemon or orange tree close by, but with smaller gardens being the trend nowadays they are better reduced in height rather than left to tower upwards.

Feeding them is a top priority this month too. What I recommend is 20.10.10 fertiliser spread around the feeding roots between the trunk and the tree canopy. Depending on the size of the tree use 3 mugsful for mature trees and one for young trees – a mugful equates to 100g – any rain will water it in for you.

If you grow miniature fruit trees in pots then I suggest you use Phostrogen, which you can use for other potted plants, some which might need some attention if they have been outside all winter. Continual rain in the plant saucers makes for soggy roots, which plants don’t thrive on, so keep your eye on them and tip out the excess water if necessary.

Pampas grass may be looking rather tired after all the winter winds and rain, so it’s time to cut the stems right back to the base. In previous times people used to burn them down, but not nowadays because of the fire risk.

Within days new shoots will be appearing and this is a good time to take any root cuttings if you want to. You will probably need a spade to do this as the roots are very deep.

At ground level cyclamen are out in glorious profusion. You may wonder why new plants keep popping up away from the mother plant and ants are the cause of that as they carry the seeds around the garden and bury them, where they eventually germinate – a lovely bonus!

Hibiscus starts to send new leaves now but if there are very low night temperatures they may wilt. All is not lost though and like lantana plants they will regenerate once the temperatures warm up.

Plants start to recover from their dormancy and send out new flower stems each day. Aloes in particular. Aloe vera has vibrant yellow flowering stems, but Aloe ferox flowers can be red or orange.

There is one called Candelabra arborescens with multiple stems of orange flowers, which can grow quite big and puts on a tremendous show, but take care removing any dead leaves as they have many thorns along the edges.

Another succulent that can grow extremely tall is Agave americana – once the flower stem starts to shoot skywards it can reach 10-12 metres making it difficult cut down when flowering is finished. You may need a saw for that job!

Sturdy Iris albicans, growing well since they were re-sited in the garden here last summer, continue to delight me. All irises need abundant sunshine to bring out the best, so should be planted with the rhizome facing into the sun, otherwise you will get lots of leaves and no flowers. The tall flower stems rise from the centre of the rhizome and the lovely blooms slowly open.

Sadly, about this time of year a nasty red beetle turns its attention from the spring bulbs to irises. Called Dionconotus neglectus, they grow quickly and when mature search out other flowers. They are not favourite insects in my garden, but every year they seem to appear from nowhere!

Blue irises called iris germanica flower later and colonise quickly. After flowering remove the flower stem and cut the leaves into an inverted ‘v’ which will expose the rhizome to the sun and encourage more flowers next year. The leaves quickly regrow.

There are other irises called ‘bearded irises’ with wonderful flower colourings, which you may find in some garden centres. They need the same treatment as the other irises and some bone-meal or rose feed in early spring will enhance the growth. They are certainly worth growing.

Whilst village gardens seem to have roses in bloom all year round, they do benefit from some severe pruning now, as they may have grown quite tall and leggy.

Many commercial rose growers remove all the leaves and cut down the stems to an outward facing growth, which will encourage new strong leaf growth to appear. A feed of a proprietary rose feed afterwards will help things along.

I love roses but they don’t thrive in my garden, except Banksia roses and from a very small plant planted about 20 years ago, I now have a splendid display each spring of buttercup yellow flowers along my fence line.

With only occasional feeding and no pruning, this evergreen thornless climbing rose, originally found growing in parts of central and west China and brought to the west by plant hunter Joseph Banks, is a firm feature of many gardens here in Cyprus. There is also a white flowered variety, but in my opinion not as attractive as the yellow one. I think that I may have mentioned before that the largest Banksia rose is to be found in Tombstone, Arizona and takes up 740 metres!

When your bulb flowers begin to die off, it is best to remove them as you don’t want the bulb to waste energy on making seeds, as it is needed to help prepare the flower for next season. Don’t remove the dying leaves until they are quite dead, as they too are instrumental in next year’s flowers.

It’s a little early for annual seed sowing unless you can protect them from any heavy showers of rain. Annual seeds tend to be tiny and can be easily washed away. Sunflower and sweet pea seeds, which are larger, benefit from soaking before planting.

Some of the annuals I grew last year are already showing above ground, especially a favourite here Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescens’, and are quite tall now. They had the advantage of the late autumn warm soil in which to germinate.

I took green cuttings just before Christmas of perennials like marguerites and leonotis, but I know that at that time of year they are usually slow to send out roots. Most cuttings need some bottom heat to help them along, so protect them if you can. Don’t move them on too early though, as they will be quite delicate at this stage.

 

Plant of the month –  Pyrostegia venustafeature garden plant of month pyrostegia venustaThis tropical climber, known as the flame vine, came originally from Brazil and nearby countries. However, it will grow well in our Cyprus sunshine up to around 300m.

It brings much colour to the late winter garden with its bright densely-clustered orange tubular flowers, which are sometimes so heavy that they droop downwards.

The many shoots and tendrils latch onto anything nearby and grow prolifically, so be warned.  A house not far from me is covered with the blooms, a pretty sight, but probably not quite what the owner had in mind.

Best grown over an umbrella type stand, although that might not be strong enough for the abundant growth; the support does need to be sturdy. To curb the growth, it is best to severely prune it after flowering.

Pyrostegia can produce small seed pods but the seeds are rarely viable, so propagation is by layering or stem cuttings.

This plant can cope in drought situations, although some light watering would be helpful and being pest and disease free it is an asset to the larger garden!