• Claire

The Winter Garden


It’s against intuition, and reason, but no matter how hard I fight it, gardening does indeed start in February - here. So strange.


As a kiddo I dreamed of a place where I could garden in the winter and I think many people move British Columbia just for that reason. Don’t get me wrong, the weather is still cool and damp, we’ll probably see more snow in the next few weeks, and the winter flowering trees and shrubs aren’t nearly as plentiful as their springtime playmates, but plant some witch hazel (Hamamelis), winter viburnum, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) and you have a lovely winter garden.


Sweet box has filled my mum’s home and front yard with a most delightful perfume and it’s only one plant nestled surreptitiously against the front of the house. When we were there the other day, she had to point it out to me. It was so well hidden, but its scent was everywhere. Winter viburnum and witch hazel also have a lovely scent. There are some early flowering dogwoods, Scotch heather, and so many others. Our garden here doesn’t yet have the winter pizzazz that tempts other gardeners into the cold rain, but there are still a number of things that need some gardening muscle (yes, gardening is a workout). February is my time to clear a lot of invasive plants like English ivy, spit in your eye (hairy bittercress), thistle (the Canadian one), Himalayan blackberry, mountain bluet, evil daphne (Daphne laureola) and yellow archangel.

I end up getting just a small amount done; it’s a never-ending and bumpy road.


My two biggest February jobs are cutting back the tree mallow (Lavatera maritima) - a severe cutback that feels like murder - and removing suckers from the fig tree. If I get those two major projects done, it’s kinda like that TAADAA moment when you make your own bed in the morning. That’s all it takes to encourage me to go out in the cold damp dark mornings and freeze my fingers!

When do you dare start your gardening chores? What’s the first thing that gets you out to your garden, balcony pots, or window boxes every year?

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