November In My Garden by Philippa Thomas.

Don’t our four seasons provide a constantly changing Dalkey landscape?  Did you notice that local councils in the U.K. and Here reduced the mowing of roadside verges, sowing them with wild flower seed mixes, such schemes not only make urban spaces more visibly alive with interest but provide valuable food sources for pollinators.

Then, wonder did you spot any of our local native orchids??  “The word orchid carries a potent exotic charge, boosted by the large, flashy, tropical species sold in supermarkets.  This can create expectations that may make many of us miss Ireland’s exquisite but less conspicuous members of this enchanting family”.  “IRELAND HAS 30 NATIVE SPECIES, ONE OF WHICH THE WESTERN MARSH ORCHID IS UNIQUE TO THE ISLAND.” – Paddy Woodworth.

Orchid Hotspots.   “Bull Island is just one of a number of orchid hotspots across the country.  Other well known havens include The Burren, The Raven Nature Reserve, Wexford, The Cloheen Strand Intake near Clonakilty, Ballyheigue Kerry, Mullaghmore, Sligo embankments and quarries near Enniskillen and the islands and peninsulas of Donegal.  …But, once you get your eye in you don’t have to go to hotspots to find orchids.  The Pyramidal Orchid may be found, in cracked pavements of a main street, and the two spotted-orchid species, heath and common, turn up across a range of habitats.” – Paddy Woodworth, The Irish Times on Sat July 13th 2019.

Brendan Sayers, Founder Of Our Irish Orchid Society in June 2001 and Glasshouse Foreman, National Botanic Gardens says, “A single species may manifest itself in a maddening variety of different ways.  The existence, or otherwise of a distinct species is indeed critical for proper allocation of scarce conservation resources”.

Now, that November is here, our leaves are twisting, twirling, turning around and almost dancing while falling on the ground.  As our Autumn turns to Winter, it is getting colder and wetter and our Summer blooms are fading into sodden brown mulch.  Our Dalkey Gardens are undergoing a lot of change as our colours begin to fade. Isn’t it lovely to get outside into the garden on mild days and clean up?  Best to rake up leaves as piles of leaves cut out the light and will cause the grass underneath to go brown and look unsightly.  November is a time of beautiful transition with things really slowing down in our gardens due to the arrival of Winter – Remember, song birds need to build up fat reserves to help them survive our colder Winter months.  Our shorter days and frosts trigger plants to shut down but the shutting down is spectacular, the vital green chlorophyll is dismantled.  In colder regions when the severe frosts blacken the leaves and stems of dahlias and canna lilies, lift the roots and store in a frost free shed. – Remember, it only takes one night of frost to damage or even kill off some garden plants.  Make sure you take into your greenhouse or cover anything vulnerable to the weather with garden fleece or the likes. – There is still time to collect seed from any late flowers.  Its best to sow the seed straight away in pots in the coldframe as it’s more likely to germinate, maybe cover the surface of the compost with grit to help stop moss from growing -.  This too, is the perfect time to take cuttings of tender plants, such as salvias and plectranthus.  These plants will be much easier to overwinter in a light, frost free place than their much larger parent plants.

Cut under a pair of leaves and then remove the bottom sets so that no leaves are under the compost when you insert the cuttings, – So go on, root some cuttings, Why Not.

Winter Plants and Spring Bulbs.   As you empty summer pots, fill them with Winter and Spring flowering plants and bulbs.  The quicker you do this, the longer they will have to grow before our colder weather sets in.  Ferns, some palms and tree ferns can grow really well in terracotta pots.  Bulbs look so great in a collection on your doorstep or on a small outside table under a window – , maybe outside your office window or kitchen, so that you can admire and enjoy the scent of some beauties, such as Hyacinths and Narcissus.  One can become obsessed with pots and how to get them looking better and better every year and yet, – not take over our lives.  Some people like intense, jam-packed, ‘get-the-most-out-of-every-square-inch’ garden style from Spring to the tail end of Winter.  I visited a friend’s garden last week, its owner had woven a carpet of colour and texture that confused the eye, into believing, it is all planted in the ground rather than in pots.  Why not review your horticultural successes and failures and plan for the next gardening year before we get into the Christmas Mania.

MAYBE CONSIDER;

  1. Removing the growing-tip of wallflowers will encourage them to produce side shoots and make bushier plants.
  2. Compost bags are not recyclable. Most bags made from LDPE (low-density polyethylene), ideal, they are though, for growing potatoes and can act as a weed barrier or hanging basket liner.
  3. Some trees are grown for their attractive bark such as The Himalayan Birch, (Betula Utilis) which can lose its sparkling appearance of its bark. Wipe the bark with a wet warm cloth to bring back bright whiteness.
  4. Winter heating and likewise, underfloor heating can dry the air out in our homes so help house plants to survive by misting them or placing the pots on a pebble filled tray of water to enable adequate humidity and moisture.
  5. Maybe, get out there and improvise some suitable protection for plants and structures that might be affected by the wilder weather to come.
  6. Among the most colourful of flowers in our Autumn garden with increasingly variable flower species, is The Nerine or Diamond Lily. Maybe, seek out a good variety and plant at base of a sunny wall or cramp into a gritty soil based pot, so that the tip of the bulbs show above the compost surface.

Please do your bit by not buying plants sold in black plastic pots which can’t be easily recycled.  Beth Chatos Garden Nursery U.K. gives 5p off plants bought for every pot in good clean condition returned.

Beware that manure can be contaminated with herbicides.

Research by Indiana USA and the University of Nottingham has revealed that Chinese bracken fern could be the key to clearing up contaminated soil.  The plant takes up arsenic from the soil and holds the toxins in its leaves.

‘It is the very act of gardening that I would not nor could not be without.  It is what thrills me, (most of the time!) and keeps me grounded.’

Philippa.