November has arrived and the mild weather has some plants confused but this is a win win for garden lovers. As the calendar month's defy traditions mother nature brings some unseasonal surprises.
Spring bulbs are popping their shoots up above ground, perennials have a late second flush and some shrubs are even flowering now when you would normally expect a later winter show.
And then there are plants really coming into their stride now, namely grasses! Miscanthus sinensis takes centre stage looking fabulous in sepia autumn light or drenched in raindrops, as do Pennisetum and Stipas. These low maintenance architectural plants add structure to borders, introducing movement and sound as well as contrast in shape and texture.
As we firmly move forward through autumn, the garden has become carpeted in leaves, every colour of the rainbow and rather than feeling things are coming to an end, I feel there is hope. This explosion of bonfire hues inspires the imagination and promises new beginnings.
So many plants are flourishing at the moment. It is a real joy to see the garden full of colour in November. Loving every minute until ferocious frosts hit to call time on the show.
Enjoy Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' in flower NOW, wafting its divine scent around the autumn garden. Their dainty flowers are exquisite stretching out along dark stems.
Embrace that nature keeps us on our toes. Dismiss the rule book. Take note of what is occurring in your garden right now and react to that rather than ploughing through jobs you 'normally do' at this time of year. There is so much colour still to enjoy.
Here are some gardening tips for when the time is right in your garden...
Ensure all tender plants are kept frost-free in a greenhouse, conservatory. cold frame or windowsill.
You may need to fleece terracotta pots and half hardy plants to help them make it through winter. Move pots near a wall and group together. This will help keep the temperature up, like a mini microclimate. It is surprising how much heat is retained in building brickwork.
If you have not already done so then it is time to wrap up your Dicksonia antarctica, Tasmanian Tree Fern to protect from the elements. Carefully fold the fronds over each other so they form a protective blanket over the crown; then wrap in horticulture fleece; cover the entire tree and pull cover down to pot rim. Secure at a few points so the cover survives all that winter throws at it. Rainwater will still be able to penetrate the fleece to keep your tree fern hydrated but frost free.
Ensure containers do not become water logged; raise off ground with pot ‘feet.’
Now is the time to get in all remaining stored bulbs! Check sheds for your carefully dried bulbs and get them in the ground.
Plant tulip bulbs. November is prime time - the reason for November planting is to avoid tulip fire disease, a fungal disease in the soil which is thought to have passed by November. There is plenty of discussion as to whether this is really necessary but it is an easy practise to adhere to, so I plant tulips in November.
Keep your garden scheme flexible by planting in pots so you can move them around. It also means you can move the pot out of pole position once blooms fade and you are waiting for the foliage to die back.
Reduce Buddleja davidii and Lavatera (tree mallow) by half to prevent wind rock; otherwise strong winds could break long stems.
Prune climbing and rambling roses to keep a tight framework but remember to enjoy the colourful baubles of rose hips.
An outstanding David Austin climber is 'The Generous Gardener' pictured below. It is a prolific long flowerer, exquisitely scented and boasts large orange/red hips until winter.
Reduce shrub roses by about a third to help prevent wind rock.
Plant out winter / spring bedding such as primulas, pansies and violas.
Plant bare-root shrubs, roses, trees and hedging.
Prune fruit bushes (currants / gooseberries) once dormant and take out the old canes of summer raspberries leaving the new canes for next year's fruit.
Harvest the last of the pumpkins and squash which were not carved up for Halloween.
If not already done so, lift dahlia tubers, begonias and gladiolus corms and store over winter.
Surprisingly, depending on area and weather conditions, many of us are STILL enjoy dahlia blooms. My garden is full of gorgeous flowers. Although many have faded I am going to eek them out for as long as possible before I lift the tubers. It is a long time until they will bloom again so make the most of it.
It is an ideal time to plant raspberries and currant bushes, strawberries and transplant runners.
Prune Acer palmatum from November to January when dormant. Do not prune earlier as stems bleed. Enjoy their vibrant colourful leaves for as long as they stay attached to stems.
There are vast range of Acer palmatum, Japanese maple leaf colours available to keep your garden glowing as other plants fade. Perfect for small gardens as many are very slow growing.
Apple and pear trees can be pruned from December until February once the trees are dormant. Do not prune plum trees until around June time as they are susceptible to silver leaf disease. As the saying goes 'never prune a prune until June!'
Keep an eye on stored fruit. Remove and compost any rotten. If you have a large crop they can be juiced. There are plenty of local private and community juicing schemes. Look up what is available in your area. It is a great way to make sure you use all your crop.
Clear out the greenhouse to avoid over wintering bugs finding a haven. Great opportunity to tidy pots and get organised.
Keep sowing cut and come again salad and herbs under cover.
Check for hibernating wildlife if you are lighting a bonfire. Hedgehogs will be finding winter homes.
Help birds in the forthcoming winter months by leaving out seeds and water. You will be amazed what wildlife appear in your garden if you provide a safe feeding haven. In Wales a couple of autumns ago we were lucky enough to have a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers come to feed every morning!
Do not be too hasty cutting back old seed heads, they provide excellent food and shelter for a whole variety of creatures.
Generally ensure soil / base of plants are clear of dead leaves and plant materials to minimalise the spread of fungal diseases. This breaks the lifecycle of diseases such as black spot returning to the soil. But don't be too tidy! Where possible leave leaves so wildlife has a home this winter.
Collect old ‘healthy’ leaves in bin bags or a designated area in the garden to make leaf mould. Leaves certainly are at their peak 'wow factor' at the moment so enjoy the colour before a tidy up. This natural resource, laying all over your lawn and borders will rot down into garden gold!
Sow sweetpeas under cover for strong plants next year.
Take stock of successes and failures this year and commence planning next year. Always good to put pen to paper and draw your garden, planting scheme and future potential developments. Browse seed catalogues, magazines and nurseries for ideas.
All photos taken by Debi Holland © 2020