November in the garden
This month in the cooling Northern Hemisphere may be the final chance to do the big garden clear up with Christmas season preparations commencing and poorer weather starting to inhibit much outside garden work.
Cut back and remove all frosted dead leaves and pull up dahlia tubers for storage on a damp (not wet) compost in the dark. Burn black spot rose leaves together with all other infected foliage – don’t compost them! Collect fallen leaves, and if possible keep them in black plastic bags with air holes or wire baskets are favourite . Remaining leaves on the grass or flower beds does a lot of damage and gives pests, especially slugs and snails, a cosy winter hibernating habitat. Enjoy the deepening and constantly changing winter colours of Autumn -Fall you just cannot beat them, look at the intense colours of the small persian ironwood pictured above.
Cyclamens are flowering their red and pink heads off already and are reasonably priced at garden centres for buying in winter colour. New bare root roses should be planted now and existing rose shrubs cut back fairly hard to stimulate good growth in mid spring. If left roses will exhaust themselves budding, but won’t flower and will not perform as well next summer.
Last chance to cut back by a third shrubs that have finished autumn flowering. Rhododendrons and Camellias should be carefully pruned as they will have started budding for next year already so double check where you are cutting first. I was asked about pruning Spring shrubs this summer and generally its best to prune back soon as possible after Spring flowering, a good example being Forsythia, before the buds start emerging for the following year.
Winter flowering berry shrubs for example Ilex (Holly), Skimmia and Mahonia should be growing berries right now. The Sarcococca is a superb, inexpensive and very fragrant winter easy-to-plant shrub that can be purchased as a small plant don’t miss out on it for a really strong fragrance boost on a cold winter day.
Enjoy remaining seed heads from Perennials such as Rudbekias and tall growing Miscanthus grass and Hypericum berries with leaves going multicoloured. Arum italicum bright red berries of the Araceae family sneak up unexpectedly. (Dont eat either,they are poisonous !). There are so many sharp seed heads of teasels (Dipsacus family) and a plant name that I love called Honesty -Lunaria annua of the Brassica (cabbage ) family with transparent circular seed pods. I will put up some pics of these in December including Phlomis seed heads of the Lamiaceae (Mint family ). Just take a look around all gardens and plants you pass on an Autumn walk .
Spring thoughts for action now
Have you planted any spring bulbs and plants for the new year? It’s not too late. Narcissus-(Daffodils) , Tulips Crocuses, Snowdrops should be planted now while the ground is still soft and there are superb new varieties of different colour Hellebores (some named Christmas rose flowering from December onwards)! Bunches of Wallflowers are on sale at low cost ready to flower next year as biennials, their colour is very worth looking forward to even for the one flowering year.
Move indoors tender plants in containers, they will perish in an unheated greenhouse. A porch or heated conservatory is ideal. Remove pumps and lights from ponds and store decorative garden lights which can be badly damaged in severe damp frost and storms. Look out for some new gardening gloves ,gardeners deserve them after a hard working year.
Clean gardening equipment. I find a wire brush works wonders removing hardened soil. Take time to have a good look at your mowing equipment for safety checks and a possible service. Nothing is more irritating on a lovely spring morning when you do your first cut and you find the machine is silent or sending out clouds of smoke!!
Enjoy and welcome again to schools, teachers, students and everyone from the RHS Schools Campaign.
Tony Arnold ACIHort