Brrrr! It can be hard to feel keen about wading into the garden in November– too much cold, too much wind and rain or worse…….but there are still jobs to do including some cleaning and tidying, planting a pot for winter colour, refreshing the rhubarb patch……
A GOOD WASH AND BRUSH-UP
Now the main season of busy garden activity is past, it’s a good time to address sections of your garden space other than your plant borders.
Have a long critical look at paved and patio-areas as well as any decking. Brush and scrub away any dirt and grime that has built up during the year – a pressure-hose is a useful tool here, and I find it handy to have a little trowel with me for scraping up patches of moss on the paths in shady areas which can become horribly slippery when wet. Make any repairs to the joints between slabs that you need to, and tidy up any manky corners.
November is the month we like to bring under cover almost all the garden furniture, leaving just the most durable bits and pieces, and we put a net over the garden pond to catch the worst of the falling leaves – too much rotting foliage in the pond would foul the water.
I am not a fanatical lawn-owner, but we do have a lot of deciduous trees, so from time to time I do rake up the fallen leaves because they can smother or even kill the grass if they build up. And putting them into a mesh bin or a black bin liner with holes punched in it, is a no-brainer if you want marvellous leaf-mould to use in the garden later on!
All rather dull and dreary jobs, I’m afraid, but they can make you feel smug about the garden looking smart and ready for the winter once you escape indoors again!
PLANT A WINTER POT
Once you have taken the summer bedding out of your pots, how about replacing it with some plants to cheer you through the winter months?
It’s not a good idea to use plastic pots for this, which can be too light and unstable in strong winds, but sturdy frost-proof stoneware ones are perfect.
A few caveats before you start planting:
- Position your pot BEFORE you start filling it, or you may not be able to move it. Choose as sunny a site as you can, but where you can see it from the window, or where you will go past it to and from your front door each day.
- Stand it on pot feet or bricks to help drainage and prevent waterlogging.
- Use a good free-draining compost.
- Plan to pack plants into your pot because none of them will grow hugely during the winter, and you want it to have plenty of impact.
Now for the plants! I daresay that you want flowers, but be aware that the main flowering season for many plants sold as ‘winter bedding’ is actually early spring – Polyanthus, pansies, violas and the like. You’re better off opting for good evergreen, possibly coloured, foliage, berries and coloured stems. A little shrub can add some welcome height – a small bright-stemmed Cornus (dogwood) such as flaviramea, perhaps, or Skimmia ‘Rubella’, Erica (heather), Gaultheria, Euonymus, Hebe……..lots of colourful choices! And they can always be planted in the garden at the end of the winter.
Then tuck in things like ivies or Lysimachia nummularia (creeping Jenny – I like the golden one) which can trickle over the sides. Then there’s Heuchera in all sorts of foliage shades like the lovely H. ‘Marmalade’ in the feature photo this week, or Cyclamen which can inject some flower-colour as well as delight with their pretty leaves. The leaves of Bergenia often colour up beautifully in the winter, and grasses such as Carex and Anemanthele can soften the look, as can ferns such as Asplenium or Polystichum in a shadier spot.
Popping in some small early bulbs and pansies or Polyanthus primula to match your colour scheme can prolong the beauty of your pot into March or April of next year. Have fun with it!
One more thing – don’t forget that we can have dry spells even in winter, so do check the compost every so often and water if necessary.
We absolutely love rhubarb! I might have mentioned this before – I am no cook! – but even I can make the most delicious crumble or sweet bruschetta with luscious spring rhubarb.
I remember being amazed by a film of the sheds in the famous Rhubarb Triangle between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell in West Yorkshire, where the stems were being forced upwards in the dark and you could actually HEAR them growing! And then they were picked by hand in candlelight so that the delicate pink stalks wouldn’t be turned green and hard by photosynthesis. Wow!
I can’t aspire to anything like that, but I am happy to give my rhubarb patch a boost now and again. November is actually a good time to plant new rhubarb crowns, or divide old clumps to renew vigour and health (the plant’s, not yours, but I suppose that would apply too…) Every 4/5 years, lift the rhubarb clump, and dig over the soil mixing in some manure. Then replant just the healthy outer bits of the clump into the improved soil.
Perhaps not QUITE as delectable as in West Yorkshire, but still a pleasure to look forward to next spring!
- Do check tree-stakes are firm and that tree-ties are not too tight around young trees, before the bad weather hits.
- If you have an outdoor tap, wrap some fleece around it, or put a custom-made foam cover on it, to prevent it from freezing.
- Make sure that any fruit you have put away for storage is not going bad – one mouldy apple can quickly infect a dozen more.