The month of Novem­ber is a time to put in the work for a beau­ti­ful year ahead, says Sue Bradley, who is look­ing for­ward to tip­toe­ing through tulips next spring

Living France - - Contents -

Sue Bradley re­veals what to do in the gar­den this month, plus our blog­ger’s sea­sonal col­umn

The last of the sum­mer colour may be drain­ing away but there’s no need to be glum; in­stead make the most of the op­por­tu­nity to plan ahead for fab­u­lous dis­plays through­out the com­ing year.

Start off with the trees and shrubs that pro­vide the back­bone to the gar­den and note any gaps that would ben­e­fit from be­ing filled. Novem­ber is a great month to put in bare-rooted plants while the soil is still rea­son­ably warm; over the com­ing weeks their roots will start to spread and the en­tire plant will be ready to burst into life when the tem­per­a­tures start to rise next year. And they’re a lot cheaper than buy­ing pot­ted equiv­a­lents next spring.

Be cau­tious, how­ever, when re­plac­ing trees affected by disease, the sites of which could still be con­tam­i­nated with in­fec­tious spores or, in the case of honey fun­gus, the long black rhi­zomorphs known to gar­den­ers as ‘boot laces’.

Novem­ber is a good month to take a good look at the peren­ni­als grad­u­ally dy­ing back ready for their win­ter sleep. Dig up any that have been in for a cou­ple of years and may be jostling for space with their neigh­bours and split them, ei­ther us­ing back to back gar­den forks to force the stub­born ones apart or teas­ing more del­i­cate spec­i­mens into smaller units with the hands.

Re­plant what’s needed and dis­trib­ute other clumps in other parts of the gar­den or give them away to friends.

Any re­main­ing gaps can be filled with bare-rooted peren­ni­als, of­ten sold as a spi­der-like tan­gle of roots. Once in the soil their lo­ca­tion should be marked so that their im­pend­ing growth is not dis­rupted by a mis­placed fork next spring.

All gar­dens ben­e­fit from a splash of colour in April and there’s no finer way to achieve this than by plant­ing tulip bulbs. Buy them now and or­gan­ise in drifts that will look stun­ning next year.

Tulips come in a mul­ti­tude of colours and sizes and, with a bit of thought, can be planted to en­sure a dis­play that will last for sev­eral weeks, start­ing with sin­gle- -flow­ered ear­lies such as ‘Apri­cot Beauty’ and Tulipa kauf­man­ni­ana hy­brids that bloom from March to early April.

Look for dou­ble-flow­er­ers, ‘Tri­umph’ hy­brids and the tiny Tulipa greigii to start at the be­gin­ning of April, Fos­te­ri­anas for mid-spring and ‘Dar­win’ hy­brids, sin­gle lates, ‘Par­rot’, dou­ble lates and lily-flow­ered cul­ti­vars to take over in May.

Tulips are one of the glo­ries of spring but their leaves can quickly look un­tidy as they be­gin to die back. One way to dis­guise this fad­ing fo­liage is to plant mound-form­ing gera­ni­ums nearby to draw the eye and grad­u­ally spread their at­trac­tive leaves over what’s gone be­fore.

Early bloomers in­clude the del­i­cate G. phaeum, with its Vic­to­rian bon­net-style flower, while G. ‘Rozanne’ – voted the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s Plant of the Cen­tury in 2013 – will fol­low up with large blue flow­ers from late May.

The dark days are on their way but, with a lit­tle plan­ning and a bit of work, there’s lots to look for­ward to next year.

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