Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

Celebrate the month of love

Crocus tommasinianus  ‘Barr’s Purple’  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ (Gillian Goodson Designs)

It’s February, it’s Valentine’s and love is in the air! Charm alone won’t wash on such a big day in Cupid’s calendar. Red roses are the traditional romantics’ flower of choice but a less predictable seasonal bouquet would also give that special someone a megawatt smile.

For something a little different, when it comes to plants and not your love life, consider Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood), an ornamental tree with intriguing clusters of pinkish-red flowers on bare stems. Its flaking bark is also a worthy feature.

Bursting onto the scene with profusely scented clusters of yellow flowers, also on bare branches, is the Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas. It is a spreading deciduous shrub, which can grow to 5 metres. Appearing like forsythia but not as commonly planted, it is a good year-round plant that has cherry-like fruit in summer and reliable reddish-purple autumn colour.

If you took the time to plant the corms last autumn, you will be delighted when the purple petals of Crocus tommasinianus ‘Barr’s Purple’ emerge this month. The flowers not only have a bright orange stamen but also a silvery sheen when touched by sunlight. It naturalises easily in grass and will blossom through to March. Highly attractive to pollinating insects, it’s a marvellous choice for edge of woodland, between tree roots and in crevices.

The evergreen, deeply cut leaves of Helleborus foetidus give a rather unpleasant scent when crushed (aptly nicknamed, stinking hellebore). However, its lime green flowers contrast superbly with brighter colours in the garden. It is tolerant of dry shade and its nodding, purple-edged flowers appear from January through to early April.

The north wind doth blow and with it went the unseasonably mild start to winter that we have experienced recently. Layers will be needed to tackle those garden jobs this month: snowdrops that have stopped flowering can be lifted, divided and replanted in the green; prune deciduous trees and shrubs while still dormant, and roses in late February. To avoid rot, lift any remaining root crops if ground is wet. Plant broad beans, peas, leeks, radishes, and summer- flowering bulbs under cover. Deadhead bedding plants to lengthen flowering period and feed. Continue to feed birds.

Remember, it isn’t all about rose petals, candles, heart-shaped sweets or even kissing that Valentino. A simple unexpected gesture is often more valued and genuine. Celebrate the month of love and should you find yourself on your own… then be kind to yourself and pamper to your heart’s content!