Mudpies & Butterflies

Mudpies & Butterflies

A monthly gardening column by Louise Barby

“Go to the winter woods: listen there, look, watch and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest”  - William Sharp

February is about firing our imagination and enjoying the little things in life. Time to slow down.


If your garden lacks colour, try planting Hellebore, sweet box or cyclamen to brighten an area that you see from the house.

  • Divide congested herbaceous perennials.
  • Prune winter jasmine, cut back to flowered shoots.
  • Transplant shrubs growing in the wrong place while they're dormant.
  • Plant lily of the valley for both scent and delicate flowers.
  • Deadhead winter-flowering pansies and bedding plants
  • Remove old or large hellebore leaves to the base, it is well worth the effort as the flowers are able to be seen so much for clearly.


  • Continue to plant hedging, shrubs, trees and climbers.
  • Force rhubarb for an early crop by putting an old bucket over it.
  • Plant raspberry canes, in the ground, large pot or raised bed.
  • Move deciduous trees and shrubs as long as the ground is not frozen.
  • Many summer flowering deciduous shrubs can be pruned from February to March. Pruning now will maintain shape and form. Deciduous hedges can also be shaped now.


  • Re-cut lawn edges to crisp up the appearance of the garden and save work later in the season.
  • Moles activity increases in February, as this is the mating and nest building season. Remove the largest hills and re-firm the ground before overseeding with grass seed in spring.

Armchair time:

We often inherit flowers and shrubs in our garden. It is very easy to just live with someone else's taste and vision. Why not make your own mark. Jot down your ideas. Think about a border, some pots, hanging baskets etc. that you could devise a scheme for this summer. Keep some large, established shrubs as a back drop to your new plants, working as a ‘frame’ to your new scheme.

Try to add some synergy in your garden if it feels a little disparate. Use the same colour in different plants, the same foliage colour or texture or even similar height. This will make it feel like you’ve created it with thought. Simply adding the same colour of flower throughout a border can be just enough to bring it all together. Worry not, gardening is about experimentation, some things work, some don’t. Just give something a try. Become a little more adventurous, grow something new, from a plug plant or seed. It’s a very cost effective way to trialling a new idea.

The World’s largest wildlife survey:

Take part in the RSPB garden bird watch. The survey has been very successful for many years, this is down to our participation and enthusiasm. The survey provides important information about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter and helps alert conservationists to those species in decline.

You can request a free pack or download at

Happy gardening!.

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