You could be forgiven for thinking the November is a time when the garden starts to shut down for winter and nothing much is going on. Look more carefully and you might be surprised. November is often thought of as the start of the gardening year, the month when traditionally trees and shrubs are planted. But for me, the glory of November lies in the colours. Leaves are turning on the trees and even the dead stems of perennials provide a striking backdrop against a riot of gold, bronze, reds and browns.
Plants for colour in the autumn
Evergreen shrubs are a must have in the autumn garden. As leaves fall, their striking colours provide a focal point for the garden in this eve-changing season. Some of the best evergreens include Arbutus unedo or strawberry tree. This compact, slow-growing shrub has flowers and red fruit at the same time in late autumn. Erica carnea or winter flowering heather comes in various shades of pink and white and provide a steady burst of colour resistant to most temperatures and wind. Viburnum davidii is a small evergreen shrub which has bunches of upstanding berries in a lovely shade of turquoise lasting late into winter.
Skimmia is one of my favourite evergreen shrubs. Hardy and compact it is invaluable for winter interest. There are several different varieties with flowers ranging from deep red to pale green. Be mindful though that some varieties are unisex, so it takes two bushes to create berries. There also a number of winter flowering clematis now available if you want to provide some winter interest and brighten up a dormant tree or bare wall. Some of the best include clematis Winter Beauty which is evergreen and winter flowering, with bell-shaped creamy-white flowers from December to February. Clematis Lansdowne Gem has rich claret coloured flowers for several months during winter and attractive seed heads once flowering is over.
If you have outdoor planters standing empty during the winter months, try some evergreen shrubs such as potted topiary using box. Or you could fill them with winter bedding plants such as ornamental cabbages and winter flowering pansies.
Some garden jobs to do in November
Now is the time to do some winter digging or forking over. Make sure you keep off your lawn as much as possible to protect it when it’s wet. Also remove any dead leaves. Plant bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths. In the vegetable garden plant garlic and fruit trees, as well as summer-fruiting raspberry canes. Remember to ventilate the greenhouse when the days are sunny. Now is also the time to plant bare root plants such as hedging plants and roses.
My garden in November
If I’m honest my garden is at its very best in late spring early summer. Planted mainly with perennials, the garden is a riot of colour and textures during this time of year. However, I have come to appreciate the transformation which occurs with the onset of autumn. The leaves on my big old apple tree begin to turn a bright yellow before they drop to the ground. The lavenders in my lavender bed take on a silvery hew that stands out brightly on a dull day. The rusty wire plant supports in the herbaceous beds, almost hidden during the abundance of spring and summer, now stand tall as stunning architectural features against a bright blue autumn sky. My outdoor planters are filled with little winter gems such as violas, ivy and cineraria. At this time of year my box topiary comes into its own, providing a backdrop of evergreen colour and structure against the riot of autumn gold.
My garden may be at its showy best in spring and summer, but I have to say that autumn remains one of my favourite times of year.
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