My Garden by  Philippa Thomas

In general, our plants have recovered remarkably from our long drought spell of our Summer and now, our ‘most dry spell’ takes its place in memory.  As our leaves are still falling and our days of wind and rain are gaining in numbers: as well as wrapping ourselves up in warm snug clothes, our gardens need plenty of TLC, in this November month, as we endeavour to almost put it to bed for the Winter.  Remember damp conditions are dream conditions for slugs and snails and a host of fungal diseases.  So, advantageous to add a layer of dry pine needles to the soil surface to deter these slugs and snails from attacking beautiful young foliage as it emerges next Spring.

Autumn is nature’s natural time for planting.  Our soil is still somewhat warm after our Summer and Some Indian October Evenings which encourages good root growth and fast establishment.  Then, with Autumnal rain, our plants should get off to a flying start and in time will perform to their fullest potential.  Evergreen foliage makes an invaluable contribution, especially when frosted.  …Then, there are fiery Autumnal leaf colours, plants and stems that provide shapes, form and colour.  Then, berries give us such a rainbow of colour.  Some, especially grasses with their ornamental seed heads look fabulous when the lower Winter sunlight glistens through – again, leaving withered plants (some!) or faded flower heads can make a fine Winter skeleton.  Ladybirds and other garden friendly insects love a cosy hide-out to overwinter.  In fact, local wildlife will love you, if you can put away your secateurs until Spring.

This is the perfect time to sweep and turn those falling leaves into something really useful for our gardens.  Transform them into leaf mould.  It’s really easy to do.  All you have to do is gather the leaves together and put them into black bin bags and if possible, add a handful of fresh grass cuttings, make a few holes at the bottom of the bag, seal it and place it out of sight for twelve months.  Next Autumn, the leaves should have rotted down to make a wonderful compost.  Great for planting and enriching your soil.  Alternatively, our leaf heaps can easily be constructed using chicken wire and posts.  Likewise, if you have access to manure (five year old horse manure is excellent), ‘Now’ is the time to spread it across the surface of your beds in order that it will rot down over Winter.

If you can’t or don’t want to plant up the whole garden, concentrate IT close to the house, literally outside your back door, patio etc.  Even if you feel that you can’t simply face digging up etc. in Winter, – having lots of colour close up, where you can really see and enjoy it and looking out from your window will brighten your day and mood.  Scented Winter-flowering plants again, close to the house – , you can then simply open a window for that delightful scent to waft through the house.  Mahonia, Saracocca Confusa (Winter Box), Winter-flowering Honeysuckle, Lonicera Winter Beauty and Viburnum Bodnantense – one or two of such plants with these amazing Winter fragrances can bring the whole garden Alive.

Might Do Maybe, November Jobs.

  1. Re-use spent compost annual containers. It can make a great mulch on the general garden.
  2. Maybe, install some solar lights (they are cheap) for the greenhouse, so that you can still get out there on dark evenings to check your plants.
  3. Raise containers onto pot feet to prevent water-logging.
  4. As flower heads are developing on Cameillas, Rhododendrons, Magnolias etc., they might need a liquid feed.
  5. Pittosporum, evergreen hedges, Holly, Griselinia can be trimmed to leave them neat and tidy for our entire Winter period. Similarly, clip over Santolina, Artemisia, Lavender and Senecio.
  6. Tender shrubs and plants such as Fuschia, Datura, Abutilons etc., should be brought indoors before frosts.
  7. Before our birds eat all our Holly berries, cut a few stems for making Christmas garlands. Stand them outside in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where our feathered friends can’t take them.
  8. Some gardeners are now disproving of putting crocks on gravel in the bottom of pots and planters to improve drainage. Some say, it can actually make it worse and increase water-logging?  Certainly, put one flat stone of crock over each draining hole to prevent it clogging, then perhaps use some sharp sand and then, your best compost.

“What good is the warmth of Summer, without the cold of Winter to give it sweetness.”

Jarod Kintz.

“What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”

W.H. Davies.

“Let us love Winter, for it is the Spring of genius.”

Pietro Aretino.