NOW'S the time to prune a number of winter flowering shrubs that have finished flowering. This includes winter jasmine, which should have flowering side shoots and some of the older shoots removed.
Deciduous viburnums should have some of the flowering shoots thinned out. Mahonias that have grown too tall or that didn't flower very well can be cut back by around one third or more if they've become very tall and spindly. Also summer flowering spiraeas can have all their shoots cut back to a few inches from ground level.
Bush roses can also be pruned, dead or dying stems should be removed first before cutting back the remaining stems by half to two thirds. The thinner the stems, the harder they should be pruned. Prune to an outward facing bud.
Later in February you can prune clematis (apart from the spring flowering montanas, alpinas and macropetalas). Those varieties that start to flower in May and June can be cut back by about a third. Those that start to flower in July or August and the autumn flowering types can be pruned harder, cutting them back to about 15in-24in from the ground.
After pruning, it pays to feed with a controlled release or slow acting fertiliser to ensure healthy re-growth and lots of bloom during the next flowering season.
Don't forget to check the condition of your gardening tools and keep them nice and clean when you've finished avoiding transfer of disease and rusting of the tools. And, if you need new ones, St Bridget Nurseries in Exeter stocks a wide selection of gardening hand tools, many with special offers.
If you're not wanting to brave winter temperatures but eager to get gardening, then why not start sowing your summer bedding plants indoors? You can sow sweet peas, annual dianthus, lobelia, ageratum and bedding geraniums. Don't forget to use seed compost as it is finer and contains fewer nutrients, which can damage young roots.
A lot of our customers ask how they can screen unsightly parts of the garden and one alternative to a fence panel or traditional hedging is to use climbers. Fast growing clematis, honeysuckle, Virginia creeper and roses are good choices, especially as many of them benefit from scented flowers. Remember to offer plants support in the form of trellis or wires.