Click to follow
The Independent Online
What should be done about shrubs damaged by the snow falls of February? Evergreens such as choisya and the low-growing Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens are the worst hit in my garden. Other friends have been mourning the loss of lilacs and hebes. Where branches are attached only by the skin of the bark, there is no point in delaying. Cut them, finish off their misery and get rid of them. Where branches are split, as with my choisya and ceanothus, I shall leave them both until they have flowered before undertaking major surgery.

As for lilac, you could take the chance to rejuvenate the bush by cutting the whole thing down to about two feet, forcing it to throw new shoots. In the end, this is likely to produce a better-shaped, more free-flowering bush than you would get by simply cutting out the damaged branches. Depending on the extent of the damage, I would be tempted to cut a hebe hard back, too, but not yet. There may be more harsh weather to come. Wait until April, when it can be persuaded to shoot again from the base.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) can be pruned now, too. Take out spindly stems entirely, cutting them off at the base and shorten the strong growing stems by about a quarter. Tough pruning will make the shrub produce new strong stems which will flower more vigorously than weak growth. You need to feed wintersweet, though, to get the best results. A thick layer of muck this spring or next autumn should do the trick.

Repot house plants if you think they need it. They needn't necessarily go into a larger pot. Tease old compost away from the roots and set the plant at the same depth in fresh compost in a clean pot. Water it thoroughly, but do not drown it. The nutrients available in the fresh compost will mean that the plant will need no extra feeding for the next six weeks.