This month our garden ramble is all about embracing those elusive daylight hours, making plans for spring and relishing a riot of autumn colour.
Many people hide away indoors once November arrives – Gardeners’ World has stopped for the winter and so do countless gardeners! However, there is always plenty to see, do and enjoy if you dress appropriately and with so many people suffering with depression and other mental health issues, getting outside is as important now as ever. Catch every ray of sunlight possible to top up your vitamin D levels to stave off illness and Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is something so many people suffer from. Even if you have a tiny patch, make the most of it; notice the colours present now and the birds which might be braving your space more at this time of year, which will be more visible now because of the lack of leaves.
The temperature has been unseasonably warm this autumn, but very wet and windy. It is difficult to predict what November will bring, though I suspect the wind and rain will continue, and the frost will finally arrive to finish off the blooms on opportunistic plants making the most of the late warmth and sunshine in much of the UK.
This is the month to plant tulips for a riot of colour in the spring. Plant bulbs two to three times the bulb’s depth, or as deep as possible, to encourage them to return for a second and third season; however, they are short lived plants, so don’t expect too much! Planting deep also gives them a firm base which protects them from windy weather. If you have squirrels who visit your garden, you can cover the area with wire mesh. Always check for mouldy bulbs before planting. Tulips tend to go chalky and soft. If you’re unsure, float them in water – the good tulips sink to the bottom.
Here at Horatio’s Garden Midlands I have selected some lily flowering tulips, which have petals which curve outwards on strong, tall stems, and some peony tulips which are late blooming, full, luxuriant double flowered tulips. These are not good for pollinators unfortunately, but if you want to plant tulips for bees, apparently they like violet coloured varieties and when planting for bees, it’s important to avoid double flowers of any type.
Now is also the time to plan for even more spectacular autumn colour next year if you didn’t last month. Take time to reflect on your planting and assess the palette in your garden now; take photos and note which areas or pots need improving. Here we have sedums (Hyletelephon), Japanese anemones, Salvia ‘cerro potosi’, the ornamental grass Hakonechloa macra ‘Aurea’, vibrant red and orange peony foliage, Verbena bonariensis and Dahlia ‘Thomas Edison’ in the borders, as well as cosmos, calendula, lobelia and the riotous golden, ruby and purple stems of rainbow chard in the raised beds, providing plenty of colour throughout the garden. Meanwhile Osmanthus provides a stunning Mediterranean scent with its diminutive but abundant flowers. Liquidamber styraciflua, Dicanthus cercidifolius, Nyssa sylvatica, Euonymus europaeus (spindle) and Rhus typhina (stag horn sumac) are all stunning if you have the space.
Other jobs for this month:
• Collect your fallen leaves and store in a leaf bin, made from pallets or wire mesh to make soil conditioner or leafmould mulch.
• Sow ornamentals, such as Eryngium, Bugle and Sweet Peas, or edible salad greens under cover, or spring onions and broad beans outside in the ground or in containers.
• Plant bare root or container grown trees and shrubs
• Cut back penstemon by a third after flowering.
Overwinter any tender or borderline hardy plants that you haven’t already. Move pots against a house wall, ideally a south facing one, or into a cold frame if you have one. Alpines planted in your garden can be protected from getting too soggy with a cloche open at each end. Dahlias can be left in well drained soils in the south of UK – they survive fine here, but you might want to mulch with dry material such as straw, wood chips or heather. Otherwise lift and store in a cool garage.
Whatever you do this month, treasure and enjoy as much time as possible outside!
Here’s to staying cosy, taking things slowly and appreciating the arrival of nature’s winter wonders.