Ah, the days lengthen at last and we can begin to see spring all around us. Some trees and shrubs are already blooming: the winter jasmine, the witch hazels, and the snow drops. If you have a warmer microclimate on the south side of your house, you might even have hellebores beginning to show their delicate blooms.
Late February is a great time to cut back those spent fountain grasses and sedums. They provided marvelous winter interest but it’s time to make room for spring’s new growth. This is also a good time to prune your scraggly butterfly bushes (Buddleia) all the way back to the ground, to get the most vigorous and bushy new growth in spring. Red and yellow twig dogwoods (Cornus) can also be cut to the ground, as the new growth produces the most vibrantly colored canes for next winter’s color. Other shrubs that can be pruned in late winter are: Abelia, Barberry (Berberis), Beautyberry (Callicarpa), Summersweet (Clethra), Smoke-tree (Cotinus), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus), Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia), Roses (except climbers), Chaste-tree (Vitex), Bluebeard (Caryopteris). All these bloom on new wood, so pruning in spring will not remove flower buds. You can rake up all those leaves that blew into your yard over the winter, and if you’re really ambitious, lime the lawn!
For those of you who have cold frames, you can start seeds directly in the ground — usually around Valentines Day. Lettuces, spinaches, chard, kale, and peas don’t mind the cold, in fact, they prefer it. Remember to crack the frame open on sunny days, as it can really heat up in there!