WIN on then unyielding, through fair and foul weather, And pass not a day that your deed shall avail.

And in hope every spring-tide come gather together, That unto the Earth ye may tell all your tale.

Then this shall I promise, that I am abiding, The day of your triumph, the ending of gloom,

And no wealth that ye will then my hand shall be hiding, And the tears of the spring into roses shall bloom.

The Earth by William Morris (1834-1896).

In 1883 William Morris spotted thrushes stealing strawberries from his garden and used the scene in one of his designs, The Strawberry Thief. Morris often used observations from his love of the natural world, incorporating them into features of fabrics and wallpapers.

Although a figure in the Arts and Crafts movement he had a love of gardens, and leads us on the the subject of roses blooming in the spring. Given a bit of help from the clerk of the weather, roses can be blooming in mid may. One such year was 2022 when temperatures from mid-April were around 10oC, rising to 21oC by May 17, which brought roses out in their profusion. However in 2011 I recall it was a very a hard and cold winter with a late spring, with some tulips still in flower in early June.

The rose bushes I refer to were well established and had been pruned early. Some gardeners prune in the autumn or early spring in February to get them booming as soon as possible. Prune them to shape keep an open middle. Don’t keep massive amounts of shoots on. Rose planting can be done in February as long as the land is not frozen and not too wet (I can hear you saying when will that be?). The gardener always has to keep a weather eye out. The wise gardener always keeps a weather eye open for frost. If skies are clear and bright and the sun has got his hat on in March there could be a frost, especially if there’s an east or north wind.

The wise gardener takes opportunities when there is a break in the weather and conditions. Roses are making a comeback and are becoming popular once again. I’ve seen some good ones in nurseries in pots at very reasonable prices. Roses can also be had bare-rooted to plant by the end of March and are cheaper to buy.

There are roses for every part of the garden. Bush types, ramblers and climbers. When buying look for specimens that have have a least two or three strong branches. Roses will give a great show but, as always, the answer lies in soil preparation. Incorporate well-rotted manure before planting, sacks of this can be had ready to use from nurseries.

Soil PH should be ideally slightly acid at 6.5 but roses tolerate most conditions. When planting dig a generous planting hole and give an application of bonemeal to give them a bit of long-term nutrient. And very long root should be careful, cut back to around 10ins (25.4cm).

When planting look for the soil line on the stem of the rose which is where to plant it to. Don’t plant too deep, and firm in well. Established bush roses should be pruned to back to three to five eyes (leaf joints). Dead and diseased branches can be cut out. Ramblers can be pruned to keep shape. Climbers are best pruned in autumn or early spring, cutting back by one third to encourage flowering growth. In June a rose fertiliser can be given and you will have splendid roses full of vigour which will give months of lasting pleasure.

Other jobs to do in February: potatoes can be bought now and placed upright in egg boxes, in a frost free place, rose end up where the shoots are. Dahlia tubers should be taken from their winter quarters at the end of the month. Place the tubers in boxes of potting compost. The top of the tubers should be just above the top of the compost and watered in. A little bottom heat and they’ll produce shoots for cuttings. The tubers could be planted in the garden in late May, but better results are gained from taking cuttings I find. Remember to order plugs in good time, as many types sell out.

Winter flowering shrubs can be pruned when flowering has ended. Cut out any dead and diseased wood. Prune to shape, cutting out crossed branches. Sweet peas can be sown in a frost-free greenhouse to get a good crop.

My gardener of the month died in 1843, but his legacy lives on today. John Claudius Loudon gave us gardening as we know it. An author of over 60 books, his name has been overshadowed by others, such as Lancelot Brown, described as the greatest gardener, but Loudon deserves more credit that he’s been given.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Picture of Loudon drawn by Bruce Baillie, former T&A artist, for Gardeners’ DelightPicture of Loudon drawn by Bruce Baillie, former T&A artist, for Gardeners’ Delight (Image: Bruce Baillie)

He gave us green belts around our towns and cities to provide breathing spaces. A word of warning, these green belts according to some are not needed in modern times and must be built on to further housing growth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Green belts are needed more than ever, to give us the breathing space that Loudon advocated back in 1829. They must be protected.

Loudon created Britain’s first public park, in Derby 1840. There was then a rush to create parks all over Britain. Bradford’s first park was in 1859. Loudon worked for better education of gardeners, saying “it was a subject more important than anything else”.

So when you take a stroll in green areas of the green belt or through a park, think of the gardeners who look after it. Cast your mind to John Claudius Loudon, and value what he has given us to enjoy today.