My Garden, November 2015 by Philippa Thomas

Isn’t the season of Autumn colour, one of the most beautiful?  Remember, the bounty of Autumn in our treasured Dalkey and in our Dalkey gardens, is also the success of our earlier efforts, especially in this month of November.  Our ongoing celebration of Autumn, pre-winter, is flamboyant with masses of buttery yellow, smouldering orange, smokey red and flashes of shades of pink as is presently seen in many of our stunning varieties of Nerines and Asters.

I think some of our most astonishing colours in Autumn are seen in the squid – blue tones of some varieties of Hydrangea, usually the Hortensia group.  We have observed their fading blue flowers now, for many months and because of their familiarity we almost take them for granted, sometimes we walk past them without noticing their subtle changes in colouration.  Their truly stunning shades very from lime green, various shades of pink, deep crimson to the more ruby, violet, indigo varieties.

While walking Precious last week, I noticed in a neighbours garden, a deep purple one, edged with cerise and then yesterday, this very same hydrangea was, Prussian blue and almost turquoise.  Later, when the frosts come, the flowers will change to a tawny brown.  These brown mopheads can help protect our plants and in any case, they can take that bare look off our gardens in winter.

Winter usually, sprawls itself around us, early in November.  We become aware of it, quite suddenly when we find ourselves walking on our frozen ground that seems curiously lumpier and bumpier than usual.  It can hit us, out of the blue as well as sometimes, be a jolt to our spines and then, a necessary call for a woolly scarf and warm accommodating gloves.  Our Dalkey foliage is assuming its magical tones of beautiful colours but very soon, there will be no leaves at all left on our deciduous trees, climbers and shrubs.  I like this month because when cutting down those frost blackened stems of Michaelmas Daisies, Asters, Astrantias, Alchemilla Mollis, Phlox’s, Peonies, Golden Rod etc, we know that they will be back to greet us again, in the late spring which remember, is only the other side of Christmas.  Have you noticed that there are presently, masses of scarlet berries on some of our Dalkey Walls and shrouding some residents garden gates and low surrounding walls.  This is the very popular Cotoneaster horizontalis.  It is such an obedient plant that will grow, almost anywhere, even a north facing wall.  What an excellent plant too, for covering gaping, naked concrete walls, especially those prone to Graffiti.

Finally, I just must tell you.  I have wondered for some time now, why we lost our Chinese Virginia Creeper (it is a smaller plant than its American relatives, growing only 10 metres high).  Today, our climber is bare, it has no vivid red leaves, nothing; Just as I write this, I realise but didn’t really pay any heed before, that most kinds of house paint contain anti-fungal agents to keep the house walls looking clean’ However, some of these products can affect the ability of climbers, such as our Henry’s Vine to gain a grip.  This problem lessens as the paint ages.  Such, was not the case for us.  We had its wall freshly painted last year, hence

Might Do, Maybe November Jobs

  1. Many Ferns remain green in winter, so are of considerable garden value. Did you know that Ferns have no flowers?       They have a totally different method of reproduction from flowers. Maybe consider planting a special one.
  2. For lawns, the old fashioned besom or birch broom is excellent for sweeping up fallen leaves because I hear from others, it has a whisking action that a broom doesn’t have,
  3. Remember, Semperviviums hate too much wet. Some grey and silver plants dislike too much rain, they can even vanish for ever, if our winter is more than usually wet and soggy and then Hellebores, such as our Christmas rose, are not keen on muddy splashes.
  4. Worth considering Maybe?     The Sparkling ‘Sea’ Buckthorn (see picture)

The Sea Buckthorn is one of the best winter berry plants, it is not a native bush but absolutely loves growing and thrives by our sea coast.  Where it has been planted, it spreads by underground suckers, to make big broad clumps.  It makes a super wind-break for a coastal site and seems completely resistant to gales and salt spray and then, being so spiney, no large creature can slider through it.  It can be tricky in gardens with its suckers but could suit very well, a place where a semi-wild planting can be made.  The female plants carry absolutely masses of orange berries in winter and are so ornamental actually, best to plant where it can sucker.

  1. If you’re slightly miserly, like me, but adore to have fresh flowers (love to have them on our veranda, outside our hall door, which is under cover, I cannot recommend more highly, that green Chrysanthemum, tall and elegant, even one, standing on it’s own, stately, in a bud vase. It seems to be the trendiest variety and is definitely back in vogue – super too, for flower arranging, it’s Latin name, Chrysanthemum Shamrock – remember, green flowers can be a very calming colour, it’s almost as if, they wither, die with dignity.
  2. While you’re waiting for some hedge to grow, you could put in some willow screening alongside it. Not only, will this provide an instant barrier but it will also shelter the new hedging plants while they find their feet …… and their roots!

THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO THINK ABOUT THE CONDITION OF YOUR SOIL, WHICH IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL GOOD GARDENING