There’s now enough power in the February sunshine to melt the top layer of frost within minutes. As the sun eats into the shadow of the trees, the frozen moss turns green. You can watch it happening. But it is still winter. Nothing much is growing, and just as well. In this part of the world, premature warmth is fatal, as we found last year.
Still, in the south-facing gravel in front of the house the occasional species crocus and anenome blanda have decided that they are warm enough to flower. This gravel should be a paradise of early bulbs, but moss, mice and the creeping clover decimate their numbers, and, of course, I forget to do anything about renewing them.
The February task is to clear the winter debris. It’s astonishing what nature discards over the winter. Huge numbers of birch twigs; dead silver poplar branches, the remains of the primulas, iris and crocosmia. Most of this stuff can be picked up, ripped out or snapped off. But not euphorbias. For reasons best known to themselves, dead euphorbia stems arre fibrous and tough, and have to be cut individually with secateurs. And when you have large patches of e.griffithii ‘Fireglow’ to cut down, it does the back muscles no good at all. I try to remember the pleasure this plant gives me in high summer – but it’s hard.
At least all this stuff burns – quickly and easily. It would take an age to rot down in compost, but the ash can be dug directly into the vegetable beds.