Garden Blog | November
Fruit, flowers, and foliage, give November the most diverse feeling of all the months.
Travelling through our beautiful countryside, we see that native trees have a wonderful glow about them at this time of year. Buttery birch and lime, jostle with coppery beech and russet tones of oak, to give a kaleidoscope of autumnal tones. The gardens of villages and towns provide something more akin to a jewellery box, where a multitude of bright colours compete for attention. Even the dreariest of November days are brightened by colourful foliage, and on sunny days positively glow. There are also, of course, a host of trees and shrubs that are abundant with fruits and berries just now. It’s easy to bring autumnal foliage and fruit colour to any garden, from the most modest to grandly palatial, as shrubs and trees from the diminutive to positively gigantic are readily available in garden centres, and autumn is the perfect time of year to plant them. So why not get planting for the future?
Plants that burst into flower at this time of year are a little sparse in number, but definitely impactful in the garden. Low growing Iris unguicularis, or the Algerian winter Iris, produces delightful pale lilac or purple flowers with a central band of yellow on the falls, sitting just proud of a mass of evergreen grassy foliage. Southern African Hesperantha (Schizostylis) coccinea, or the flag lily, is a semi-evergreen perennial with slender leaves, and flowers that are red, occasionally pink or white, with six petals, and are produced four to ten alternately on a two foot tall spike. Last, but most certainly not least, I will mention Nerine bowdenii and its cultivars. Although originating from South Africa, it is commonly known as the Cornish lily, in honour of Athelstan Hall Cornish-Bowden, the slightly preposterously named gentleman who introduced this beautiful bulb into cultivation. Nerines are best planted in a sunny spot with well drained soil where they can remain undisturbed for several years, as they bloom best when the bulbs are quite crowded.
Our main gardening task here at Deene Park at this time of year is cutting back all the herbaceous perennials that have faded from their summer heyday, and are now rapidly dying down. By clearing away all this material, not only are we left with visually pleasing tidy borders, but also allow light to plants such as primroses to stimulate flowering in spring, and ensure that we are not trampling emerging spring bulbs by leaving the job too late. The material removed can be added to the compost heap, and when well rotted, returned as a top dressing. It is important, however, to ensure that any weeds with seed heads, or pernicious weeds such as bindweed or ground elder are kept aside and destroyed.
Finally, leaves. It’s important to regularly remove fallen leaves from lawns, as they will otherwise suffocate and kill the grass beneath, leading to a patchy lawn. Leaves left to lie on the ground also harbour pests and diseases that will cause unnecessary damage. Gathered leaves can quite simply be piled up in the same manner as a compost heap, covered with old carpet or tarpaulin and allowed to break down naturally. This time next year you will have lovely crumbly leaf mould to add to your borders.
One final comment… Forking is sometimes described as ‘back breaking work’. Luckily for me it was my fork that broke, and not my back, when I was maybe a little too overenthusiastic in the task lately.