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February Gardening Journal: Plant of the Month – Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

February 1st, 2024
When it’s mild, it’s a great time to sharpen up the structure of the garden, as the soil is easily workable.
February is a time for new beginnings and a time to reflect on the past year with the best place to view the garden from the comfort of an armchair with a cup of tea to hand. But when it’s mild, it’s a great time to sharpen up the structure of the garden, as the soil is easily workable. The winter sunshine and crisp frosty mornings also bring an added dimension too. Many perennials and ornamental grasses look really good when covered with the silvery hand of Jack Frost, the seed heads given a new and interesting lease of life.

There are a few plants that help us through the winter gloom with both Sarcococcas and Daphne being the most well known among them. With their decorative evergreen foliage, vibrant perfume and beautiful little flowers Daphnes, in particular, provide fantastic structure in the winter garden. They also compliment the early flowers of the spring bulbs really well too - especially the pure white of snowdrops. They provide great structure and often the foliage of Dapnhe’s look great on their own, without any flower, all through the seasons.

Originating from the eastern Himalayas, Daphne bholua forms an upright growing evergreen shrub adorned with leathery mid-green oval leaves. Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' produces clusters of incredibly pretty, intensely fragranced flowers that are pink on the outside and white within. This makes it an ideal shrub for any garden because of it’s slow growing habit and flowers that are present in the late winter, when most other plants are dormant.

The clusters of these wonderfully scented flowers open from late February and are followed by small purplish-black berries. It’s best to keep pruning to a minimum, and plant where its roots will be shaded. They also don’t like being moved when established so best to choose its home carefully so you don’t have to disturb it again when its happily growing in your garden.

Grow Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in partial shade. They are fabulous little shrubs and can be used in so many different types of schemes, its versatility making it very popular in both domestic and commercial planting schemes. They look best planted in repetition throughout a large garden and can also be used as single specimens in smaller schemes too.

Daphnes are a must have for the winter border and can look great planted with a groundcover of cyclamen, or near a gate or doorway where the scent can be appreciated. However, be aware that all parts of the plant are toxic if eaten, and the sap is an irritant too. Daphne Jacqueline Postill holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit despite parts of the plant that are poisonous to humans and a range of animals. While this could be seen as problematic it makes it a great plant to include if you have deer and rabbits roaming through your garden. Overall, one of my top 10 Evergreen Shrubs!

Jobs to be done in February:
Ornamental Garden

• In late February cut back hard (coppice) all the Cornus (Dogwood) to low buds.
• If snow falls – do not let the snow sit on the shrubs, gently shake off to prevent damage.
• Prune Roses creating an open outward facing framework.
• Prune Clematis (late/summer flowering).
• Shape borders to neaten edges.
• In late February – cutback deciduous grasses.
• Remove weeds from borders.
• Prune out dead; diseased or damaged wood from trees and shrubs.
• Complete pruning of Apple/fruit trees if not already done.
• Mulch borders if not already done in Autumn – taking care of emerging bulbs.
• Cut back Hydrangea Preziosa to first healthy buds on stems.
• Cut back Hydrangea Annabelle to a half/third to retain compact shape.
• Cut back side shoots of wisteria, pruning to two to three buds.
• Plant new climbers such as clematis/honeysuckle.
• Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs that flower on the current years growth – e.g. Buddleja, lavatera etc.
•    Sow hardy annuals for summer colour.

Vegetable Garden:
• Buy seed potatoes and chit tubers placing them eye end up in trays or egg boxes in a light, cool, frost free place.
• Sow crops like broad beans, lettuce etc and place in greenhouses or coldframes for an earlier harvest.
• Now’s the time if you want to think about planting asparagus – keep weed free and mulch with a thick layer of organic matter.
• Apply general fertiliser like growmore/blood fish and bone to beds.
• Mulch tree and cane fruit after pruning.
• Plant garlic.
• Spray dormant fruit bushes with plant oil based winter wash to kill overwintering eggs or aphid pests.
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